Monday, November 10, 2014

3 Weeks in Thailand

After waiting and saving and waiting and planning we FINALLY pulled the trigger and bought tickets to Thailand. So while Stephan was off working and slaving away all summer I researched every blog and travel site I could find and planned our 3 week agenda. The main thing I researched was "how to travel with a child in Thailand." The idea of taking Brooklyn to a foreign country without all of the comforts and amenities we have here terrified me! (and for good reason) It's a 24 hour flight from SLC to Bangkok and Brooklyn doesn't respond to Benadryl... She also requires two good naps a day or else she is less than pleasant. do you take a kid like Brooke on this kind of trip?? Unfortunately I didn't find a Traveling With Kids for Dummies blog...Sooo we just had to trust that we would figure things out as we went along.....

After months of planning our departure date finally arrived. We woke up at 5 AM, grabbed our bags, and headed for our adventures! I won't give all of the horrifying details of the plane rides. Let's just say that our 3 hr flight, 10 hr flight, and 7 hr flight were all less than pleasant. Brooklyn usually sleeps about 15-16 hours in a 24 hour period and she slept 3 hours total. Stephan slept for an hour and I slept about 30 min... Exhausted, frustrated, emotionally drained, moody, and every other negative emotion couldn't even come close to describing how I felt. I never wanted to see a plane after that. And to top it all off we forgot to grab one of our bags from baggage we spent the next 3 hours trying to find the "right person" to talk to that could direct us to our bag. I could now give anyone a guided tour of the Bangkok airport, and after listening to Stephan talk to all of those people I could probably give the tour in Thai. --- Finally, someone got with the program and brought us our bag! I've never been so grateful for a husband who speaks Thai!

So, we landed at 12 AM and did not get to our hotel until 4 AM. Brooklyn woke up bright and early at 7 AM ready to rumble, which means we got a grand total of 3 hours of sleep. Great way to start out a vacation, huh? Well we were determined not to let it ruin our trip, so we went out into Bangkok and explored the area a little bit!

I saw my first Buddhist temple:

I'll be honest, one of the things I was looking forward to most was the FOOD!! All I could think was "I get 21 days of eating 3 meals (maybe more :]) a day in THAILAND!! Mmm mmmmmm. So for our first meal we ate grilled chicken and pork with sticky rice. I was hesitant at first (who eats dinner food for breakfast??) but it was heavenly! I could seriously eat that stuff 3 times a day everyday.

We fed fish at this fish farm just off the side of the road. -- It was slightly disturbing how many fish they packed into this one little area... Brooklyn loved it though! Luckily she did not try to eat the fish food. She'd probably have every form of Hepatitis from A-Z otherwise :]

After exploring for the morning we hopped in our car, drove on the wrong side of the road (compared to pretty much every country in the world), and prayed Brooklyn would sleep in the car...

---- 5 hour drive ----

Next Stop: Sukothai - the oldest capital of Thailand.

We got into Sukothai around 8 PM. I was beyond excited to get to our hotel and sleep for a year. But when Stephan stopped the car as the GPS said "You have arrived at your destination" I just wanted to cry. We were sitting on a dirt road in the middle a of field. Obviously we had not "arrived at our destination." It took another hour and a half of Stephan talking to people (I found out the Thai people are TERRIBLE at giving directions), calling the hotel, and luckily talking to someone who knew someone else that knew someone who worked at the hotel to actually arrive at our destination. We were exhausted and frustrated, but we had a bed and a pack n play and that's all we needed...

Our Hotel. You'd never guess that we were in the middle of a city! 

Before we headed out to the see the ruins Stephan showed us around a Thai market. It was awesome! There was fruit, vegetables, meat, herbs, and all sorts of ingredients everywhere! I don't know why, but walking around the market became my favorite thing to do. It was really cool to watch the Thai people going about their business and getting things to prepare for their day. Thai errands seem a lot less stressful than American errands. The market is a one stop shop. You can get anything and everything. It's like Wal-mart but a billion times cooler.

As we walked through the market all of the Thai people gawked at us. I've never been stared at so much in my entire life. Luckily Stephan understood everything they were saying about us :) They all went crazy and pointed at Brooke saying "Pharang" (white people) and "Tuka tah" (Doll). They are apparently fascinated with white people and thought Brooklyn looked like a doll! :) She is pretty cute, but I was amazed at how they just gravitated towards her. Everyone wanted to touch her and hold her and take a picture with her. They also kept saying "Suay maag!!" (Very beautiful) If you ever have a self-esteem problem, go to Thailand. Everyone you meet will tell you you're beautiful even if your hair is poofy and you have dark circles under your eyes.

The Ancient Capital:

The ruins here were awesome! No offense to the chinese Buddha, but I think the Thai Buddha is much cooler. It was amazing to see how advanced there architecture and construction skills were thousands of years ago! It was super hot though and the most humid climate I've ever been in...and I'm from Indiana! We were literally soaked!

As we were walking past this Buddha I saw these two animals out of the corner of my eye and immediately panicked inside. At first I thought they were hyenas!! It's funny now, but I was terrified..until I realized they were two harmless sleeping dogs. :) Dogs are everywhere in Asia! You can walk down a street and literally see 20 stray dogs.

Monks walking around the ruins. I thought this was so cool! It was like we had stepped back in time. 

Brooklyn LOVED her backpack carrier! And we did too. It was so nice to not have to hold her and to be able to protect her from the sun. If you ever decide to get one, check out the Kelty Kids. We love ours! And don't pay full price. What a rip off. I looked on Ebay for a month and found one for 1/2 the price that had only been used once! I'm pretty proud of that purchase :)

Brooklyn was surprisingly really happy the whole time! It's amazing what a full nights sleep will do.  


These gorgeous flowers were everywhere! They're so perfect they almost look fake. Brooklyn thought it    was pretty funny that Stephan had one behind his ear too. 

After exploring the ruins and walking around the market for a little bit we hopped in the car and headed north. 

                                                               ---- 2 hour drive ----

Our drive to the North was awesome! After living in Utah for six years I have this idea of what mountains should look like, but Asian mountains are completely different! It was like we were driving through the jungle. We were surrounded by lush forests filled with exotic trees that I've never seen before. And there were coconut trees and rice fields EVERYWHERE! It was one of the most beautiful drives that we've ever been on. 


What a sweet place for a temple right? I really wanted to go check it out, but it would have take forever to figure out how to get to it. 

Deer crossing, cow crossing, beware of wild life signs I've seen. But "Beware of the elephants" ?? That's a new one! 

This view from the highway was incredible! It is so green in the north! And see what I mean about the mountains? Totally different than the Rockies, but just as beautiful in their own way! 

--- 3 hour drive ---

       Next Stop: Lampang - a northern city just a few hours away from the Burma border. This is one of the areas that Stephan served in. He was really looking forward to seeing a bunch of people here, but unfortunately everyone had moved to Bangkok since he left except for one person. He was pretty bummed, but we still had a blast! Stephan showed us all around the city, highlighting his favorite places to eat, his daily smoothie joint, the house he lived in, where the church was, and (my favorite) a lady's shop that he bought ice cream at ... a lot. You can tell he really suffered while he was a missionary ;) I really enjoyed seeing an area that Stephan lived in for 6 months. He was definitely excited to get back to a place he knew and loved. It was amazing how everything came back to him too.

My favorite dish: Nam Tok!!! It's the most flavorful concoctions of spices and limes and sauces. Seriously. One bite with a ball of sticky rice and you'll be hooked forever. 

This is Stephan's friend Mii


This is the ice cream we ate everyday, sometimes twice a day! It is delicious!! My favorite flavor was Jackfruit.

One afternoon we drove up to the Elephant Conservatory and fed elephants. They had three sets of babies/moms. The baby elephants were sooooo cute! And they had hair all over them. I don't know why but that made them cuter :] Brooklyn attempted to feed them but every time their trunks came close to her she would just throw the sugar cane or banana at them. Haha, it was hilarious.It was really cool to touch their trunks. They feel so muscular and powerful! What a weird appendage!

--- 1 hour Drive ---

Next Stop: Chang Mai, a pretty popular tourist destination just north of Lampang. We were in Chiang Mai for a few days and were able to do so many cool things! When we first got there a once a week street market was going on. It was so fun to walk up and down the street and look at all of the cool things people were selling. There was also a massage area. They had probably 100 massage chairs set up  where you could get a 15 min - 60 min massage on basically any part of your body. And the longest massage was only 5 bucks!

We also went to this really cool waterfall in the jungle. It had three different levels that you could hike to. Each level had it's own feel to it. It was gorgeous!

This is the first level. It's hard to tell in pictures, but the water is running over smooth little mounds of limestone. In person it looked really cool. 


Here's the second level. There were a lot of wading pools
on this level. Brooke had a lot of fun playing in the water! 


This is the third level. When we climbed down it felt like we had stepped into a movie set. It was misty, and the water was a turqoise color. It was so mystical and gorgeous! The waterfall was really pretty too. We met some Muay Thai fighters from Australia by the falls. They started meditating next the the falls, and nothing against meditating, but they looked ridiculous :]


We also went on a hike to these emerald pools. You can't tell in the picture, but the water was crystal clear and this deep emerald color. It was gorgeous! 

The next day my brother and sister-in-law flew in and met up with us for a couple of days. Here are a few things we did...

We went to this elephant camp in the mountains and rode elephants through the river and jungle. I have to say, elephant riding is not pleasant. Yeah it was cool, but feeling every movement of a giant animal was not comfortable. Stephan has ridden on the head before and he said that was much more fun. Next time...

Our oxen carriage ride back to the camp from the elephant drop off point.

This elephant could paint better than a lot of people I know! 

After the elephant ride we took a river raft ride.
 It was so quiet and peaceful! 

Tigers!!! Need I say more?? Well I will anyways. We got to go pet baby tigers! The bigger ones were 3-4 months old and the tiny ones were about 1-2 months old. They were adorable! Brooklyn LOVED them! She would have spent all day there if we could've.

 Only in Thailand can you get this close to a full grown lion...

We finished out our Chiang Mai experience with the Temple in the sky - Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

After the Temple we dropped Ryan and Patricia off at the airport so they could fly to the south and we headed east! Here are a few pics from a hike we took along the way. 

--- 12 hour drive ---

Next Stop: Sisaket! This was Stephan's final and favorite area. I think he was here for about 8 months. So he knew the people and the area really well! It's not really a tourist destination so there wasn't a whole lot to see, but we had soooo much fun hanging out with members, eating lots of food, and getting to know the Thai culture. The members LOVED Brooklyn. There are a three widows in the ward there that are amazing. Stephan was pretty close with them on his mission and was so excited to be reunited with them. They are the sweetest ladies ever and immediately took Brooklyn and me in. After spending four days with them they will always have a special place in my heart! 

Stephan's house

The church 

Eating Koh Mok Gai. It is sooooo good! I tried making it since we got with a capital F! Sad day. I'll just have to enjoy the memories of this delicious dish!

 Meh #1 - Meh Phat


Meh #2 - Meh Phet 

Meh #3 - Meh Tdau

Meh Tdau is an amazing cook! One of the days we were in Sisaket she taught me how to make two dishes!

We spent a lot of time eating food! I loved listening to everyone speaking Thai. It is such a cool language! Stephan taught me a lot so I could kind of follow the conversation.

Brooklyn really liked hanging out with the Meh's. They are much less "in your face" than other Thai people. :] And it was like having 3 grandmas!

We were at a church activity and ran into Sister Hermann! I went to nursing school with her sister Rachel. What a small world! She had only been in Thailand for a few weeks, so she seemed a little overwhelmed, but she could not have started out in a better area! The ward in Sisaket is amazing!!

Field trip to the aquarium with the Meh's

A few of the members. It was so hard to say goodbye! It's amazing how fast you can get attached to people :] 

--- 13 hour drive ---

Next Stop: Koh Samuii. We finally arrived in the south, slept in a really cool bungalow, and the next day we took a ferry to the island Koh Samuii. We had heard good things about Koh Samuii, but it didn't really meet our expecations. It was beautiful, but too touristy and crowded. Here are a few pics though! 

Just another Buddha...  

Rotis: The best dessert ever! It's kind of like a fried crepe with bananas, an egg and whatever toppings you want inside. Then they drizzle sweetened condensed milk on top. 

Brooklyn obviously likes them too :] 

--- A ferry ride and 4 hour drive ---

Next Stop: Krabi. Since Koh Samuii didn't really do it for us we decided to pack up early and head to the other side of the peninsula to Krabi. Even though the weather was supposed to be rainy and miserable we thought we'd take our chances. And you know what? It didn't rain once while we were there! Eat that weather channel! It was the best decision we made, because Krabi was awesome! If you don't believe me check out these pics! 

This is the resort we stayed at. The grounds were gorgeous, and it was nestled up against a huge limestone cliff. One day Brooke took a pretty good nap and we used skype on our phones as a monitor so we could hang out by the pool. It was bliss! Next time we go on a sweet vacation we'll definitely be going childless. 

We spent so much time on the beach. The water was warm and we were surrounded by limestone cliffs and islands. There were cool long boats that gave it an asian feel. And we had a blast!

One evening we were walking along the beach and Stephan noticed something in the trees... it was wild monkeys! Our whole trip I was hoping that we would see wild monkeys and we did! It was awesome!! When the tide went down they came down and started eating barnacles off of the rocks.

And there we were just innocent bystanders. Then all of a sudden I became more interesting than the barnacles....

Oh and then a second monkey decided to join the show...

And a third... Stephan kept saying "just fling them off!" Flinging was less than effective. All the monkeys did was fly through the air hanging onto my hair and then land on my shoulders again. It took a really long time to get them off. By the time they finally let go of me my love of monkeys was gone.


 Brooklyn became obsessed with giving kisses on this trip! It was hilarious. She gave me kisses for literally five minutes. :]

The sunsets were beautiful!  

One day we took a long boat to Pranang Beach. 
We had to walk through a cave to get to the beach.
The cave opened up to this gorgeous beach with
turquoise water, white sand, and awesome
limestone islands!

Another perk of Pranang beach is none other than the Cave of fertility. And yes, those are penis statues... Apparently sailors bring them to the cave before setting sail and it gives them good luck or something... oh Asia.

 Our little beach bum! Brooklyn loved the beach. She played in the sand for hours! 

 Krabi was amazing and we would have stayed forever, but our trip was coming to a close so we packed up and got the road.

--- 13 hour drive --- 

Next Stop: Bangkok. We ended our trip by exploring downtown Bangkok for the day. It was awful. I hated it. It was dirty and crowded and not fun. I guess it didn't help that we were exhausted. Plus since it was so crowded it took forever to get to places, so we only got to go a couple places. But I got to experience Bangkok and now I know that I never want to do it again :] 

Just walking around the Queen's garden. I don't know if you can tell, but that is a 5 foot long water monitor behind us.

This is how we all felt. Brooklyn was the only one that got to crash though because we had lots of packing and laundry to do!

--- 24 hour plane ride ---

Next Stop: AMERICA!!! Thailand was awesome, and I'm so glad we got to go. We saw so many cool things, ate a TON of good food, and made a lot of memories we'll cherish forever. But after three weeks of bottled water and feeding Brooklyn peanut butter sandwiches and bananas to keep her alive and never getting enough sleep we were ready to come home. Until next time Thailand!!