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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Family Time and Seafood- Back to Bangkok

We apologize for not keeping up with our 1 post every 3 day strategy, but we have been too busy, internet has been too scarce and we have simply been traveling a lot.  We are in good spirits as this is being written, but we had a stressful trip back to Bangkok from Angkor/Siem Reap/Cambodia and our journey from Bangkok to the south (Phuket, which is pronounced Poo-Ket) took about as long as our flight did from Chicago to Bangkok.

Summing up Cambodia and our final day at Angkor:  We watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat and explored the temple before the crowds overran it (pictures look good, coming soon I hope- it is hard to find an SD slot to upload).  Then we saw Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm which are the other two famous temples, the latter being the Tomb Raider one.  They were all incredible as expected, but the mass tourism about it all was overwhelming.  Tons and tons of Asian tourists littered every inch of Ta Prohm, more Nikons were in use at one time than I have ever seen before and little Cambodian children were relentless in their question "Lady, cold drink? Buy something?!"  Feeling a little exasperated, we called it an early afternoon and got some beers on the famous Siem Reap Pub Street.  Also, we had Vietnamese Pho and an Indian meal which were simply to die for.  It was sad to leave Cambodia because we knew we had only seen the most touristed area, but Bangkok loomed once again, and we were excited to finally get some beach time.

Having really found our footing in Bangkok, we found a neat little hostel near the mass transit systems and a giant, impressive mall (seriously, it is nicer than any mall I have seen in the States thus far.  I think we spent a total of around 10 hours there over the three day stay).  The highlight of our stay in Bangkok wasn't our shopping spree or bargain hostel, however, it was our time with Nat and her family (Nat is Torri Gray's friend from a high school exchange program).  We can't thank her or Torri enough for setting all of this up because our Thailand trip wouldn't have been the same without her.

Our first night we went out to the clubs with her and one of her friends.  The live band played popular Thai hits, so we couldn't sing along as many of the other frequenters were keen to do; however, that didn't stop Allison and me from dancing the night away and enjoying the rare American song.  It would be interesting to go to one of the clubs aimed at Westerners, but I definitely enjoyed our true Thai going out experience.  The experience did get us in trouble, though, because we came in late and I was loud -- much to the dismay of the up-to-now kind hostel owner.  We promptly changed hostels the next day to avoid the embarrassment of owning up to our shenanigans.

And now for one of our favorite days of the trip:  Our day with the Aroonmaharat family (Nat, her sister and parents).  A quick explanation of the family is simply a must.  Her dad is full of eccentricity, owning an expensive stingray collection among other items including a dragon fish, tiger pelts, samurai swords and ancient Buddha statues; the mother didn't speak any English, but it's amazing how Thai smiles, home cooking and a mom's arm on your shoulder can make you feel at home; her sister, Mild, was very shy and fun to be around; and Nat was a gracious host and an excellent translator.  We spent half the day admiring her father's collection (though Allison was a bit mortified by the tiger pelts: "This is the mom tiger, this is the son tiger" - insert proud smile and funny middle-aged Thai man), then we got a two-hour massage and then went out of the seafood meal of our lives.  It was a Smörgåsbord of crab, giant shrimp, catfish, mussels, soup, oysters, delectable sauces, fish cakes and a funny glass noodle dessert.  The meal was more than Allison and I ever would have expected from a host family we barely knew. I wish I could put into words how good it was and how grateful we were to share the meal with them.  It was a tough goodbye and we promised that we would stay with their family next time we come to Thailand.  I hope we keep that promise.

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