Leah’s Dad was coming to visit!! Honestly, the most exciting thing in Bangkok was awaiting the arrival of Moji and his partner, Afsoun. Going five months without seeing any faces of loved ones, we were overdue for some serious family love. After some time spent catching up, hugging, engagement celebrating, supply exchanging, story swapping and gift giving, we hit the ground running for a crazy 36 hours in Bangkok. Our mission was to get in and get out and our first stop were the royal digs. The Grand Palace took some effort to get inside and we all had to rent clothes that completely covered us from head to toe, which made the heat even more scorching in the polyester threads, but the gleaming gold temples were beautiful. Everywhere we looked there were shrines covered in mirrored glass, elaborate paintings and gold Buddhas: it was royal in every way. Never enough gold, so we trekked it over to the famous resting Buddha, which lays 150 feet long, in all its shimmering glory. Taking a que from the Master of Zen, we treated ourselves to some very firm Thai massages at the massage school, which left some feeling relaxed and some of us very sore. After all that time in the sun, we headed over to the BKK Mall, which did not disappoint. Six large stories of everything high fashion you can imagine. Perfect Christian Louboutin look-alikes, Chanel dresses, Valentino slippers, Hermès bags – claimed to all be made at the same manufacturer as the real thing, but sold for a fraction, of a fraction, of the cost and 100% negotiable! Whew!! Time for us hit the beach, palm trees and have an umbrella in our drinks!
Hold up…the taxi ride to the airport needs to be mentioned. Since there are four of us and five large suitcases (one was full of supplies Moji had brought for… Skyler), we could not fit into one car, so we hailed two cabs and told them to follow each other to the airport. Two minutes in, Dad and Afsoun’s cab gets pulled over by the Bangkok Police. Oh. No. We tell our taxi to pull over and try and ask him to make sense of what might be happening. Of course he understands nothing. After 15 minutes, we decide the safest thing is to head to the airport since that is what we all agreed on. As our taxi starts creeping towards the freeway, the car starts sputtering and we notice the gas light and myriad of engine lights are on. ….Wonderful. We’re racing against the clock due to the delay, worried about Pops and going 10mph on a 50mph+ freeway. I’m assuming one of the worst things when your tank is running off fumes is going uphill and we were about to find out. Our cabbie slides into the emergency lane and we painstakingly crawl up a freeway ramp while unnerved, speed-abiding drivers zoom past us on a one lane bridge. We eventually made it and were met by our other halves. Where’s that umbrella drink we’ve been talking about?!!
The minute you step off the plane in Koh Samui airport, you just feel the island vibe. Everything slows down. Then these little white trolleys pick you up to cart you around to the open-air baggage claim. From the moment of our arrival, Peace Resort gave us that warm island welcome. Skyler researched a dozen resorts on the island, looking for the perfect one for our mini family reunion and he could not have picked better, down to our beach front villas! Boy was this a change of pace for us!! For the next few days loads of laughing, swimming and storytelling ensued at the beautiful pool that looked out on the ocean. We cruised over to the happening area in Koh Samui, Fisherman’s Village, filled with restaurants, boutiques, beach front bars and night markets. Getting rather good at this negotiating thing, we picked up a few souvenirs and walked along the boardwalk with cold beers in hand. The highlight of all of our stay on the island was the incredible group boat trip we took on a beautifully colorful junk boat. Outfitted with a dark mahogany colored deck, a huge red sail and a very sassy captain, we sailed the gorgeous turquoise waters. Our first anchor was a reef where we jumped in to snorkel and were swarmed with yellow and black fish. Although the water was rather cloudy, these little guys came up so close it didn’t matter! Back on board and after a delicious homemade lunch of spicy shrimp curry, we took the little dingy to the very remote and untouched island of Koh Pha Ngan. Only the necessities on this island: a beach shack to serve cold drinks while your toes are in the sand. Sailing back, we enjoyed watching the sun set and cheers-ing our new found, and wildly fun, Irish honeymooning friends. Ready for some glitzy entertainment and Thai culture, we made our way down to Starz Lady Boy Cabaret where the beautiful and talented lady boys of Koh Samui would be imitating U.S. pop stars in a sequin studded performance! We applauded and sang along the whole time, thoroughly awe struck by all of the routines and feathery bedazzled costumes. I mean the headdresses were only matched by the moves on these ladies!! After all the fun, the sad day had come to send Moji and Afsoun off and we are still reminiscing over the visit with a combo of heavy hearts and sore abs.
It was a rather lovely ferry ride over to Koh Tao, an island layered with dive-worthy beaches and hippies in those billowy elephant pants. This island was way less developed, much cheaper and had a laid-back vibe we were digging. The weather had other plans and it rained on and off most of the time we were there. On one mostly sunny day, we rented a scooter and Skyler steered us through different villages, only making pit stops to check out various beaches, but mostly we just felt the wind in our hair as we cruised from beautiful view to beautiful cliff-side view. Our favorite aqua colored coast was dotted with shallow sandbars and we just took in the beauty as the warm water washed in and out. As the rain started to pour, we grabbed cover at a beach front shack and noshed on pizza and watermelon smoothies until it was safe to scooter back home. Four days on the little island had come and gone and adventure was awaiting us in the North.
Good Morning! Woke up with the roosters at 4:30am and caught a rather rocky ferry ride back to Koh Samui, where we booked it to the airport and made it in time to catch our plane to Chiang Mai. It’s hotter than we expected (we really should be used to this by now), but still a refreshing change of pace. We’re trying not to get too excited, but everyone we are encountering is so friendly! Feeling good, we stroll to a local eatery and grub on some traditional Northern Thai food. Lots of crispy pork, dark greens and stews. We passed through some small temples and a monastery, grabbed an iced coffee and head to the Saturday Night Market. It’s packed full with handi-crafts, delicious fruit smoothies and live music at every corner. Only to be shown up by the Sunday Walking Market, an even larger maze of blocked off streets that we explored/got lost in the next evening.
All of this was really filler until we were able to visit the Elephant Nature Park, recommend to us by a friend. This not for profit organization owns a massive piece of land where rescued elephants can be healed from abuse and live out their days as elephants should. Leah was so pumped to spend the day cuddling with some elephants and had high hopes for a special connection with one special creature. We were initiated by feeding dozens of watermelon halves to our assigned elephant, an elderly blind female who had been stabbed in the eye by her previous owner in her previous life as a logger. She greedily munched on the sweet fruit and soon we had her friends coming up to snake their trunks in and grab a snack. As we walked around the park, we heard more sad stories and touched many trunks, feeling the love and strength these animals carried. Baby elephants played and flopped in the water as if they weighed nothing more than a few pounds and it was a happy sight to see. The highlight was getting in the water and bathing one of our elephant friends with gallons upon gallons of river water, as he stood there, enjoying every minute of relief from the heat. Although there was no actual cuddling, special connections from Leah’s side sparked! We had one more thing to cross off our list, catching some local jazz that the area is known for. Skyler discovered Baby Blues Bar, which was located on the roof of a weekday market and the musicians just kept pumping out the grooves as we swayed our shoulders and sang along to bluesy hits. The singers had low, sultry voices that were shocking at first, but so so smooth and velvety to round out our Chiang Mai stint.