Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Swept Away

“Two thirds of the country is underwater and hundreds of people have died,” my mother warned us of the flooding during the few days before our trip to Thailand.  “Maybe you should go somewhere else,” she suggested.  I pondered the thought but the tickets had already been purchased and Matthew was really looking forward to visiting Thailand.  We debated cancelling but in the end decided to go, praying that we would not get swept away in a flood.

We ended up having an incredible time in Thailand.  After much discussion and prayer, we decided to cut a few countries from our itinerary (Vietnam, Cambodia, and New Zealand) and head home for Christmas.  Three weeks in Thailand, two weeks in Australia, one week in Fiji, then back to the U.S. visiting family in California and Wisconsin before heading back to Colorado for Christmas.  This decision made us really soak up the time left. 

From the ocean and beaches to the amazing rock formations to the palm and mangrove trees, the landscape in Thailand is absolutely breathtaking.  

Matthew and I flew into Phuket but did not stay there until getting ready to fly out of the country.  We often tried to stay off the beaten path to find the less touristy areas.  We traveled to several of the islands by little boats called, “long tail boats” that at times barely seem like they will make it to the destination.  You also have to climb into the water to get in and out of the boat which can prove challenging with a large pack on your back.

We cracked up at one of the modes of transportation when we arrived at an island and asked for the next bus.  Here is a photo of that “bus”… funny how we happened to be the only two people riding the “bus” that day…

One of the first places where we stayed was a small bamboo hut right on the beach.  It was great because I could wake up to watch the sunset in my pajamas and then head right back to bed.  :)

Thankfully, although I did see the occasional gecko, slug, and mosquito in our little hut, Matthew concealed the truth about the enormous spider he found until much later…after we left Thailand.

The infamous Maya Beach seen in the movie “The Beach” was as beautiful and serene as we anticipated.  The water was warm and the sand incredibly soft under our feet.

I loved seeing the little patterns in the sand that the tiny crabs would make.  This one looks like a butterfly.

Matthew had fun playing volleyball on the beach with some other tourists and some Thai people.  It was probably the most beautiful setting to play volleyball ever!
One day, Matthew went exploring to find a hike to a hidden lagoon.  It was a steep climb with a rope to help people scramble over the hill, and it was pretty muddy, but he made it and the pictures are stunning.

On another day, we decided to do a kayaking tour through the mangroves and rock formations.  It was amazing!  At one point on the tour, our guide pointed to a rock near our kayak and said, “Look at that crocodile!” which definitely caught our attention!  It wasn’t actually a croc but it was a giant lizard!  The biggest one I have ever seen and it was not the first sighting of such a large lizard (the second sighting was inside a restaurant on the beach!)

On that tour we met some really nice people from the UK and ended up running into them again later that evening.  That night we decided to go out for dinner and ice cream with them and a few of their friends.

We also met some friends from Malaysia on another tour we did, this one an all day snorkeling tour to several islands and beaches around the Phi Phi islands.  We bonded with our new friends as we all huddled for cover from the pouring rain that suddenly surprised us.  It rained on and off that day but the tour continued.  I had to laugh at one point when it began to pour and everyone started moving under the cover of the boat but Matthew suddenly jumped into the ocean to swim!  Snorkeling was fun although Matthew was sad that he didn’t see any sharks.  (Personally, I am happy when I don’t see sharks when I am swimming but apparently that’s just me.) 

We left the Phi Phi island by ferry to an island called Ko Lanta.  As we were purchasing the ferry ticket, a hawker immediately approached us about staying at his hotel (again, we were still in the mode of not knowing where we would sleep until we arrived at the destination).  The resort sounded nice so we decided to stay there saying, “We’ll stay for one night and if we like it we may stay for 2 or 3 total.”  We ended up staying for 8 nights.  The island was quiet and the resort beautiful.  It was an incredibly relaxing and enjoyable time.   Delicious Thai cuisine satisfied our bellies and we enjoyed it so much that I decided to take a Thai cooking class.
The four other women from around the world who also took the class were tons of fun to be around.  We schemed together about how to get the actual recipes because unfortunately the main ingredient listed for panang curry was “panang curry paste” which does not exactly help when you are making it at home!  The instructor had already made the curry paste before we arrived but it had shrimp in it and one girl had a shellfish allergy (much to our advantage on that day!) so the instructor had to remake it in front of us.  The five of us hovered around him frantically scribbling down notes because he was making it so quickly.  I don’t think he was very happy with us for taking his secrets but hey, it’s a cooking class so people want to learn how to make it at home!  I am glad to say that the food was delicious and I am looking forward to trying out the recipes at home.  Any volunteers to sample my new dishes?

During the rest of our time in Ko Lanta, we rented a motor bike and explored island.  We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant overlooking the ocean.  The views were spectacular and the food great although it was really spicy.  Matthew said his mouth was burning for an hour afterward.  I think the Lonely Planet travel guide deemed this beach one of the most beautiful in the world.  I would have to agree…

As we ate lunch we suddenly heard a large truck heading past us up the hill and when we looked over, we saw a truck with two elephants in the back.  That’s right, two elephants in the back of one very large truck!  After lunch we drove the motorbike up the road and saw a sign advertising a hike to a waterfall and elephant rides (hence, the elephants in the truck).  We decided to take the hike even though it was through a river and I was only wearing flip flops.  A guy from the UK living in Thailand offered to guide us to the waterfall which proved to be very helpful (we would have gotten hopelessly lost otherwise!) and he entertained us with hilarious stories the whole way.  I loved seeing the elephants up close (although we didn’t ride them) and the waterfall was amazing.

After Thailand we headed to Australia for two weeks, but I cannot end this blog post without sharing about my favorite part of Thailand.  I mentioned in the Bali blog post about the incredible sunsets…well, Thailand’s sunsets were even more spectacular.  We were not swept away by any floods in Thailand, but I was truly swept off my feet by Thailand’s beauty.  During the many evenings I spent watching the sunset on the beach, one of my favorite verses resonated in my spirit…

“The skies proclaim the work of His hands”

 Yes, they truly do.

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