As a preface to the chronicles of our trip:
The 6 months that followed the day I married my love in Mt. Shasta were jammed full of work, holidays, moving from Dunsmuir, CA to Portland, OR, putting our trailer in Dunsmuir on the market, putting an offer on a home in Portland, and discovering our pregnancy. Together with the months of wedding preparation we previously slaved away at, Lucas and I had had very little down time in the past year. We were ripe for a big vacation and are blessed to have been able to make that happen. As a last minute bonus, our honeymoon also became our celebrated baby-moon, likely the last big trip we will take alone as a couple for a long, long time. Little did we know how awesome our honeybabymoon would be.
From journal entries, February 18th and 19th, 2012:
On Valentine's Day, we boarded our evening flight to San Francisco from Portland. We had a 1.5 hour flight and a 1.5 hour layover before boarding our 13 hour overnight flight from San Fran to Taipei, Taiwan. When we arrived in Taipei, it was 6:30 in the morning on the 16th. How strange. The older Taiwanese woman seated next to me and I did a televised Chi Gong routine together, as the immaculate and beautiful crew of China Air prepared for landing, my seatmate translating for me. It was a nice way to end the long flight and wake up my body after being sedentary for so long, not to mention a lovely way to connect with a stranger. Our brief time in the Taipei airport was a confused rush of finding the correct terminal, barely enough time to catch our connection to Thailand. 4 hours later we were landing in Bangkok, on the opposite side of the world from where we began our journey.
Stepping out into the sweltering hot and humid morning, we briefly searched for our ride. Lucky for us, Lucas has friends living in Bangkok who were happy to pick us up at the airport and house us for our first night in Thailand. They were wonderful, and helped make our transition to a new place so smooth and easy. Our day with Melissa and John was all about awesome food.
We started our food tour with a fresh fruit smoothie before having a late lunch at a traditional Muslim restaurant. This was the first Muslim food I have had, and, wow, was it amazing! Rice cooked with clove, saffron, and cinnamon, topped with simple but perfectly cooked lamb chunks and a delicious tangy/oily sauce. We ate this with a chicken soup: a few pieces of perfectly cooked chicken in a spicy, sweet, sour, and flavorful clear broth. I have no idea what spices were in the soup, but it was almost too good. Our first afternoon snack was Roti, a common street-cart specialty. Roti is basically fried dough topped with sweetened condensed milk and sugar and stuffed with slices of banana (it was fried in the orangest margarine I have ever seen - read MSG!). Not something I would normally eat, but indeed a good taste of Thailand. Our second afternoon snack was butter chicken cooked by a man who does this Indian-Pakistani-Afghani fusion. An awesome chicken curry Indian style, but with some little differences. Fresh mangosteens and rose apples from the market were our pre-dinner snack.
For dinner we went to this nice restaurant called Face with a Thai menu, an Indian menu, and a Japanese menu. The ambiance was the best part - you walk to the restaurant via a wooden deck lined with little coves, hangout nooks on different levels, a massage hut, koi ponds. Inside the all wooden structure, it is decorated very authentically with Thai antiques, artwork, and dim lights. Dinner consisted of the best mango lassi I have ever had as well as several shared Indian dishes that were unique in their preparation and ingredients - different than any other Indian food I have had before.
With all the food stuffed into my belly during the day, on top of jet lag and lack of sleep and being pregnant, by the time we returned to our host's beautiful house, I had hit a wall of exhaustion. I slept great that night! John and Melissa, in Thailand on a military assignment, live in a very nice neighborhood in Bangkok rightly nicknamed Little America, made up of 90% American ex-pats. Big beautiful houses in a well kept gated community with lots of trees and beautiful plants - hard to believe it was Bangkok and not in the middle of the jungle instead. Incidentally, they have seen pythons and cobras in their yard!
The next morning, we got a taxi to the bus station and were just in time to catch the 11:00 bus, headed south to the coast. It was about a 5 hour journey to Prachuap Khiri Khan, beautiful as we got further away from Bangkok into the jungle and closer to the ocean. The bus dropped us off on the highway outside of town. We apparently had no other option but to hire 2 motorbike taxis to take us into town. Yes, imagine pregnant me on the back of a little motorbike, wearing a big backpack and no helmet, riding at a high speed on the highways. Praying is what I did during the entire 10 minute ride.
Safe and sound, we were dropped off at Maggie's Homestay, just 2 blocks from the ocean. For 2 nights we rented a cute 2nd story room in this big house that rents out several rooms to travellers. We shared a bathroom with a few other people and had use of the communal kitchen too. It is a nice, laid back place with a central location, clean, friendly and very safe feeling.
Prachuap Khiri Khan is a noisy and bustling coastal town, with lots of cars and motorbikes and bicycles and people zooming around. Other than a beautiful view of surrounding islands, the beach scene was pretty much non-existant. We didn't see one person in the water during our stay and few people walking on the littered beach. We stayed in this town long enough to explore a few of it's perks, but honestly were ready to leave in search of a more tranquilo beach.
Before leaving, we ate some good food: fresh caught cotton fish topped with a green mango salad, the same fish topped with a tamarind sauce, fresh pineapple smoothies, mango-coconut sticky rice, rice with pork and a basil sauce, sweet coconut sticky rice with red beans roasted in a bamboo stalk, and my favorite, a brothy pork soup jam packed with a variety of seaweeds...yum!
Prachuap's weekend Walking Market was a fun experience too. Booths lined street upon street selling food, clothes, beautiful furniture, random household items, and our favorite - plants. There were booths completely full of flowering orchids for sale at incredibly low prices. It was beautiful and filled us with a sense of longing.
People were very friendly for the most part, loving to practice their English with us...waving and calling out "Hello!" Lots of smiles and laughter. Lots of white tourists and lots of Thai tourists here for the weekend.
Our favorite moments in Prachuap were spent at the Khao Chong Krajok temple, a nice steep walk up the town hill. There were about 400 stairs leading to the hilltop temple.
But, the cool thing about the walk to the temple was the monkeys. They were everywhere, on the surrounding rocks, in the trees, on the stairs and railings. It was the coolest sight. So interesting to watch their mannerisms and interactions and how they are so similar to us humans, yet so different. Several mamas had their tiny babies clinging to their undersides as they walked, nursing as they sat. They were grooming each other, fighting over food, baring their teeth and hissing at us when we stared too long or got too close.
The temple itself was beautiful, perched above the town, the bay, the Thail Gulf with it's lush islands, and the surrounding coutryside of rice fields. Picturesque and tranquil, a perfect spot to build a temple to honor all that is sacred in life.
Up here, looking out at the beautiful expanse around us, I sure felt grateful for this good life, for the patience I had in times when I have had to wait for all of my life's pieces to fall into place, and for the chance to be on this trip with Lucas.