Month: April 2018

Singapore and beyond

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The visa on arrival here in Thailand is good for 30 days. This means that until we are able to acquire other visas, we must make a ‘visa run’ every 30 days – traveling somewhere outside of Thailand, and upon re-entry receive another 30 day visa.Danny recently had a work trip to Singapore, so while he was there I joined him for a couple of days, and was incredibly impressed by the cleanliness and beauty of the city.

Streets, parking lots and sidewalks were clean and well kept. All those we came in contact with were friendly, courteous and helpful, and the style and architecture of all that surrounded was aesthetically incredible.

I’m not a city girl, but Singapore is one that I could return to several times…for a visit.

Our room was on the twelfth floor, which gave us a far reaching view of the sprawling city.

The view became especially impressive once night time arrived…

I was impressed by how efficiently the city runs – all is orderly, efficient, easy to use and understand, and adds concerning being friendly, helpful and clean, are constantly shown on billboards around the city. We went to a movie while there, and purchased our tickets at an electronic contraption rather than a ticket counter. I mentioned to Danny that places like Singapore make much of the US seem like it’s been left in the dark ages.

These bicycles are well kept and found everywhere through the city for people to use, and a great amount of shopping is done in brightly lit shopping malls and grocery store under ground – reducing traffic on the streets. It’s all quite impressive.

When I returned home, the twins and I had 5 days remaining to get them ready for their trip to Hawaii. They have been planning this trip for quite some time and are paying for their own tickets. It is amazing to witness my babies plan and prepare for a trip – independently, and doing an amazing job at it. What impressive young travelers!

When we dropped them off, I was determined not to cry, and held back tears till they were no longer in sight. Their journey took them to Beijing, China, for an 18 layover, during which time they checked into a hotel that Danny booked for them on points, pigged out in the Executive lounge to their hearts content, then finally made their way back to the airport when it was time and continued on to Oahu, then Kona. They dealt with and took care of lost luggage and emerged to greet their sisters in Hawaii with big smiles and giant hugs. Jude and Mycah placed lei’s around their necks and were so excited to be reunited with them. I’m so proud of them all. (Of course, I didn’t doubt the twins could do it, or I wouldn’t have allowed them to go!)

Aidan said the greatest part about the trip was that the airline dubbed him as the man in charge and labeled Emma as his minor. That extra 5 minutes of age has finally given him some superiority over her, and I have no doubt he’ll ever let her forget it!

Two days after Aidan and Emma left, Danny departed on a 10 day trip, which leaves me as a solo sailer for the first time in my entire existence! That’s right… for the very first time in my life, I have no creatures or husband around! I plan on spending my time reading, writing, exploring, photographing, taking Thai cooking classes, relaxing on the beach and painting the town red. Phuket will never be the same again!


Island hopping in Thailand

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Danny left on another of his work trips, and the girls are in Hawaii, so the twins and I decided it was time for an adventure. We signed up to check out Khai Island, Monkey Bay, Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le, Maya Bay. With our snorkel gear, GoPro’s and backpacks in hand, we jumped into our trusted rental truck, and headed to Rassada Harbour. About a kilometer before arriving, traffic slowed down drastically, as a sangha (group of monks) were working their way through the village, collecting offerings and giving blessings.

Each carried a patra, or alms bowl, which is used to collect alms (money or food) from supporters.The alms bowl has symbolic significance with Buddha.

Legend states that Buddha sat beneath the Bodhi Tree, and a young women presented him with a gold bowl filled with rice, thinking he was the divinity of the tree. He then divided the rice into 49 portions, one for each day until he would be enlightened, and threw the precious bowl into the river. This legend, combined with its humble uses, has made the alms bowl (sometimes called the begging bowl) a symbol of Buddha’s teachings on non attachment.

The vinaya states that monks may use bowls made of iron or clay, but nothing else.

We parked the truck, unloaded our goods and worked our way through the chickens and vendors to the boats.

The harbor was packed with dilapidated fishing boats in all colors, shapes and sizes.

Rusty vessels were overflowing with hard plastic buoys, barrels and buckets. Lines lay coiled like garden hoses, ready for action, and well used nets draped the sides like heavy gowns ready to be laundered.

The smell of fish and oil hung in the thick, humid air, coagulating with sweat, dirty water and stink mud. Men strained as they pulled lines, others groaned softly carrying loads on naked shoulders, while yet other sat and watched as the morning droned on.

Harbors are magical places filled with constant action to feast ones eyes on, and overflowing with delicious treats for rats to gorge themselves to their hearts content. Men take pride in their boats. It’s a place where more hours are spent than at home with their wives, it’s where their dreams come true, hearts are broken, and where tall drunken tales of massive catches and beautiful mermaids abound. One just never knows what tomorrow will bring…

The boat ride from Phuket to Khai Island was wonderful. The feel of sea salt and wind in my hair always brings a smile to my face. We waded through beautiful blue waters then immersed our bodies in the salty brine in search of reef and fish. We usually try to avoid outings with this type of company because it ends up being a tourist traffic jam, but we left them all on shore with their beer, sunscreen and sunglasses, and joined the marine life who we have more in common with.

Visibility wasn’t great but we had fun exploring, and periodically found ourselves surrounded with huge schools of small reef fish, and a protective damselfish pecked at my hand as I passed by her eggs. When our 90 minutes were up, we pulled ourselves from the water and made our way back to the boat to continue on to Maya Bay.

Before boarding I met a wonderful couple from Australia. We shared quick introductions, chatted momentarily and exchanged information, then continued on as newly made friends with promises to visit. I have no doubt that we some day will.
Maya Bay was as spectacular as I’d imagined, and being there with Aidan and Emma was fantastic. They are the perfect adventurers – spontaneous, observant and humorous.

Ko Phi Phi Le, or Maya Bay, is where the movie, The Beach, was filmed, which makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations. The island was packed with 100’s of Chinese, and small groups of Russians, Germans and a smorgasbord of other nationalities. We had to quickly take photos as areas cleared out and before other boats and selfie taking groups arrived.

The island is made up of steep limestone hills on three sides, providing shelter to the 250 meter long beach.

Over the last couple of years there has been talk of closing this beach temporarily to give it a rest from the constant flow of tourists, and after reopening allowing only 2000 bodies a day to enter. Presently about 4000 enter a day, which translates to 1.2 million tourists every 6 months (77 % foreign), which equals about 362 million bhat for the Marine National Park.

En route to Phi Phi Don, where we were served lunch, we motored through beautiful areas of calypso pools.

The water was so clear that we could see the texture and color of reef 30 feet below us.

Cliffs dripped with stalactites and texture resembling honeycomb. Birds flew in and out of tiny holes and bushes held fast to the hillsides in a bright pallet of a thousand greens. I realize I’ve said it before, and have no doubt I’ll say it many more times in my life…It just doesn’t get any prettier than this! Surely Heaven couldn’t be more beautiful.

Phi Phi Don was a tangled mess of boats, buildings, souvenir shops and ice cream vendors. The only thing I photographed of interest was a beautiful woman working diligently, scooping ice cream for sweating tourists as they gathered, compared photos on small screens and smeared aloe on bright red sunburn.

Birds Nest Soup (Yan wo) is highly prized in Chinese culture, due to its rarity, high nutrition and unmatched flavor. We stopped at an area where these nest are retrieved, and were impressed by the web of precarious bamboo structures suspended as if in thin air.

The heaviest harvested nests are from Swiftlets, both black-nest swiftest, and white. They are said to be rich in calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. Most nests are built in about 35 days during breeding season by male swiftlets. The shallow cup shaped nests are made up of woven strands of bird saliva, which harden cemented into place, and are sold for up to $2000 (US dollars) per kilogram. The quality of the nest depends on the type of bird and its diet.

Ao Ling was our final stop – otherwise known as Monkey Bay. Due to low tide and high reef we weren’t able to reach shore, but watched the cute little guys from the boat.

At first just a couple long tailed macaque’s showed up, but with in a minute several others climbed down from rock and brush.

Several babies scurried along, just as curious about us as we were about them. I chuckled as I thought about adventures with friends, family and monkey’s in Panama. I also remember my sisters hair being pulled by a monkey in South Africa. So many fun monkey memories!

Thailand is such an incredibly beautiful country, and our adventures here have only just begun! I’m excited to see what’s around the next corner, and will let you know what I find.

Fishing village, Khok Kloi District

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We were curious to drive north to the Sarasin Bridge that connects Phuket to mainland Thailand, Phang Nga Province.

Phuket is 48 km (29 miles) long and 21 km (13 miles) wide, and is the largest of all the Thailand islands, surrounded by the Andaman Sea. Saphan Sarasin was the first bridge built that linked Phuket Island to the mainland and was named after a Thai Chinese politician, measuring 700m in length. It was built in 1967 to replace the ferry which was then the only connection to the mainland.

We made our way along the west coast into the Khok Kloi District and came across a tiny fishing village. Fishing boats and hand made crab pots lined the beach, which was long and open with a calm blue sea spilling onto its fine white sand sand.

Not a soul was in site along the tranquil shore, which continued on for miles in either direction.

Out on a substantial pier, stood a fisherman, ready with net in hand as he read the water and watched for fish.

It was obvious that he knew what he was doing, and had mostly likely spent most of his life patiently waiting for the right time to cast. I loved his face. This, was his life.

I wished I was fluent in Thai so I could sit with him and listen to his life story.

This place…the village where few ever set foot, is an entire world to some. When they lay to rest at night their dreams are of tomorrows catch or of sea turtles laying eggs in the sand. What a beautiful existence.

I have no doubt that they have their fair share of stressors, but I love to think of the pureness and simplicity of it all. Part of why I love to travel so much is because I love having the honor of catching glimpses of these lives and places. It is often here, where the world is nothing but ocean and sky, that I feel closest to God.

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Songkran…every country should have one!

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Yesterday was Songkran, which is the Thai New Year, and we have decided that it is our new favorite holiday. On this day, everyone in Thailand spends the day in a huge water fight, and it was epic!
My morning began just as all my mornings do – with an hour bike ride beginning at 6am. When I returned I looked out across the back yard and noticed this beautiful scene…prayer and offerings made in a picturesque setting.

Everyone in the house was still asleep so I got the pickup ready for the days adventures: 3 big tubs filled with water and water guns!

When everyone was ready, we set out to see just what Songkran was all about.

The celebration of is one that embraces goodwill, love, compassion, and thankfulness, using water as the means of expression. The word Songkran is from Sanskrit, meaning to move or step forward. The first day of Songkran takes place when the sun moves from Pisces into Aries, which marks the New Year’s Day according to the Buddhist calendar.

It didn’t take long for us to find the chaos…people lined the streets with buckets of colored baby powder paste which they smeared on each others faces.

Others congregated around huge tubs of water and garden hoses…

As we approached they’d signal for us to slow down so they could have a water fight with Aidan and Emma in the back of the truck.

Some dressed up in colorful wigs,

Some stood on top of water tank trucks in masks,

Young and old,

Regardless of race or social standing…

Everyone was free game!

Some groups filled their tubs with ice and water, and it was during those dumpings that I’d hear Aidan squeal as ice cold water ran down his back.

Emma got thoroughly smeared in baby powder paste at one point.

From the beginning of our adventure to the very end, the twins were completely drenched.

I love this photo, showing the older lady in the back, laughing hard at the scene before her, as others dumped and sprayed us as we passed by. She was just about to be hit with water from the creatures guns.

We loved the energy and happiness which was everywhere.

We also loved the craziness and spontineity in the air.

We are so glad that we were able to take part in this amazing celebration. Next year we hope more of the creatures can be with us – and of course, any of you who’d like to join! You’re guaranteed to have a blast and a half!!!

Settling in

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The past few days have been settling in time for this tribe. We haven’t done much for several reason – one of them being that Mycah had less than a week to unpack and move in, then pack and head off to Hawaii for a coupe of months. During that time we loved every second with her and the beautiful spirit and energy she adds to our home. She did have enough time to fall in love with a baby at the night market.

We love night markets, day markets and any other kind of local markets. The variety of fresh fruit here in Phuket is incredibly abundant, ranging from 3 different kids of mangoes, to lychees, passion fruit, red and yellow watermelon, pampelmousse, mangostine, rambutan, bananas of all shapes and sizes, the sweetest pineapples you’ll ever taste, and so many more. It’s what we live on.

We attended a church activity the other night while Danny was flying to Singapore, and the food at the function was delicious…

It consisted of a bag of sticky rice rolled into a ball, watermelon, spicy papaya salad, chicken balls and various fresh plants. The only plant I recognized was basil, while the others were quite spicy and one tasted just like grass. Good stuff!
We played games together as a group, took a picture then went our separate ways. Such incredibly sweet people whom I am excited to get to know.

This week we drove to the Patong Beach area, which is always a bit of a mad house.

Cruise ships offload tourists from all over the world and sunburned Russians stroll through town in nothing but their budgie smugglers (and sometimes a shirt if you’re lucky)

Everywhere one looks, businesses are open with workers at the entrance trying to lure people in…massages, nails, clothing, tailored suits, crafts, souvenirs….all claiming to have the best price and to have created their goods by hand.

We are grateful to live where chaos turns to country and bustling roads turn to meandering paths through forests, fields and beaches. We have discovered an otter that lives in the ponds around our home. He’s very shy and terribly cute! Aidan named him Oswald…Ozzy for short.

As a family we have been working out at the gym, and when no one but us is in there, I’ll sing out loud to the songs on my phone and embarrass Aidan as much as possible. It just seems like the right thing to do. Last night he reassured me that it’s not my voice, it’s the song. Hahaha what a funny boy.

Danny and I just celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary, and he was so sweet to find me a road bike so I can get back to cycling again – one of my passions. What a wonderful gift. These last four years have been a time of growing, learning and loving.

We love being here and love the Thai people. We love their smiles, their comments about Aidan’s hair looking like chow mien noodles, and their beautiful country. Life is good, and we are grateful.

Mycah…the Pro Yogi!!!

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We are so proud of Mycah!

She totally rocked her YTT (Yoga teacher training) with hours of incredibly difficult physical and mental work. She was the youngest in her group of 9, and did such an incredible job.

At her graduation she was complimented on her talent and was told that she was born to teach yoga – a natural. We are so excited to watch Mycah enjoy this great accomplishment.

Just a couple hours after her graduation, Danny, the twins and I headed for the airport, where we endured a couple of hours of “we can’t find your name in our system”, “yes we see your e-ticket but we don’t have you in the computer” and finally, “that’ll be an extra $1200 in luggage fees…” We finally made the flight, but only because they waited for us. It’s always a little disconcerting to walk the isle as heads slowly turn upward and toward us, eye’s glaring and teeth exposed on those that are still awake, as they give you that look of, “so you’re the reason why take off was delayed!” It made me want to have popsicles to hand out as peace offerings.
Actually, everyone was kind and we soon settled in to an extremely empty flight, lay across 3 seats and fell asleep.
It was wonderful to arrive home in Phuket, unpack and settle in.

I have a habit of feeling the need to unpack and settle in completely. Immediately. So, that’s what I did.
Across the street from our house is a field where kids congregate to play soccer.

Even though we have a large pool in our back yard, the community we live in has two pools we are allowed to use as well.

There’s also a gym, which means we have no excuse…

This morning while Danny slept I went for a walk and enjoyed the fresh morning air. Bird song filled the air, and I offered a quiet prayer of gratitude for life and the beauties of nature. I waked down a narrow path which everyone uses as a shortcut to the gym,

and came across a small shrine in a beautiful setting…

A large tree stands tall and wide, with sap hardened and hanging from its outreached branches.

A large meandering pond covers a open area just beyond the beautiful tree, and across the pond is our home, reflected in the water.

I walked along the bank, watching for frogs, and didn’t see one! Several birds chirped and sang, and dragonflies hovered just above the waters surface, then darted off on other adventures.I finally reached the bridge that crosses the pond, leading to our house, and stopped to gaze at the beautiful scene.

It feels so good to be here. It’s good to be home.