Sunday, January 04, 2009

An Asian Christmas

Just another 2008 highlight was having mom and dad Evans come visit us in Thailand. We got to show them all around so that they could have a good idea of what our daily lives are like, take them to our favorite places and have them experience what things are like on this side of the world. I (Bekah) was counting down the days and we spent hours planning everything for the two most energetic 53 year olds we know. We started our 15 day Asian Christmas with 2 days in Bangkok; two days to get them oriented. They got to meet people we work with, see our school, go to our local restaurants, markets, and sleep in our really hard bed. To really give them a good idea of what BKK is like, we went on an 8 hour bike tour.

Throughout the tour we dodged major traffic, squeezed our way through narrow alley ways and neighborhoods, smelled the horrific foods from local markets, hesitantly tasted Thai treats made along the streets, and balanced our way down narrow pathways through jungled villages. It was definitely a highlight and a good way to give them a true Thai experience.

Good Morning Vietnam!!! Vacation officially started for us when we flew to Vietnam. Living in Bangkok for the last 5.5 months, I really thought it had the most crowed street traffic until I visited Hanoi, Vietnam. With no traffic laws, signals, or rhyme or reason to the streets, everyone just goes for it no matter what’s in the way. The majority of them are on motorcycles or bicycles and everyone has the right of way as well as a horn. Horns were beeping non-stop. Crossing the street was definitely taking our life into our hands. During our time there we were amazed at the crowed streets and the way of life. The markets were amazing and the smells are indescribable (not in a good way). In the words of mom, “I wish I could box up these smells just so people could know what it was like, it would show them more than a picture”. We visited The Hanoi Hilton (aka The War Prison), The Army Museum, and The Literature Temple. I felt a bit smarter after doing all that, but I’m glad it only took a half day to see them all. While in Vietnam, we took a 2 day cruise of Halong Bay. It’s about 3 hours out of Hanoi and it is well know for it’s beautiful bay and islands. I’m sure it was beautiful, at least the advertisements looked beautiful, but it was extremely overcast and the weather was so cool we barely made it out of the ship except to go into some caves and kayaking. We weren’t impressed with a lot of the food on the boat since most of it had antennas and eyeballs. But, we met some great people and enjoyed getting to know them. We got to know one couple, the Wile’s, so well that we made plans to meet up with them after the boat trip for Christmas dinner. We also hope to see them again when we are both are touring China next week.

From Vietnam, we flew back into Thailand, up to Chiang Mai. Our flight had gotten canceled so we lost a day there, but made it up by going on an awesome trek. Terra, a teacher friend of ours, and her family were also visiting Chiang Mai at that time, so we trekked together which made it a lot of fun also. The trek started with getting on an elephant and heading off into the jungle. As we held on for dear life, our elephant named Leo, headed up and down some steep terrain. The light sprinkle of rain didn’t bother us as much as the fear of falling off. Daniel and I have been on a lot of elephants these past few months, but nothing like these guys! They were crazy! The Buddhist elephant guides kept it entertaining saying “Oh my Buddha” as Leo and all the other elephants would do anything to find something to eat. After that adventure, we hiked up to the base of a really cool waterfall where dad and Daniel were temped to take off their shirts and jump in. Impressing all that were watching, dad acted 31 again, and Daniel 13. The next event led us to a river where we loaded onto bamboo rafts. Dad and Daniel didn’t seem to mind that you had to sit on the bamboo, with large slits in them, where water soaked you from head to toe since they were already wet. Even though the water was only 3 feet deep, it still moved very quickly and since we were so wet, we couldn’t even feel the light rain that continued to fall on us all day. The craziness ended when we had a delicious meal at a small hill tribe village. We really enjoyed our short time in Chiang Mai and wished we could have stayed longer.

Another flight took us down to the southern part of Thailand, the island of Phuket. A tourist trap, we stayed at one of the most populated beaches on the island, Patong Beach. It was hopping with tourist, restaurants, shops, and knock offs. The guys instantly wanted to rent mopeds and find the lay of the land. So, that’s what we did! Mom and my butts were extremely sore as we held on and toured the southern and northern parts of the island. We saw some beautiful viewpoints with white sandy beaches and turquoise water. We found a zoo where dad could get up close and personal with snakes, monkeys and tigers as well as going up to the top of a hill to see the biggest Buddha in Thailand. He sits 45 meters high (about 150 feet) and can be seen from almost all areas of the island. One day, we took a boat out to some surrounding islands and snorkeled around the warm water and blazing sun. We ate some good food and laughs trying to bargain with salesmen and trying to stay on the correct side of the road (left side).

New Years Eve brought us back to Bangkok and took us downtown with 5 million other people to watch a beautiful fireworks show. With two days left of mom and dads visit, we tried to get in some other famous sights of the area; temples, palaces, malls, and markets. Some of favorite high lights were massages and going to the movies. In most theaters around here, you can be VIP and sit in lean-back chairs, have pillows and blankets and people bring you cookies, popcorn and anything you want to drink. After these luxuries, we reminded mom and dad that Thailand is still a third world country and even though we have all these great and wonderful things, we still miss home!

A wonderful Asian Christmas! As mom and dad got on the plane back to the USA, with tears in my eyes, I felt like it was July all over again. Me, saying bye and a sad TV show rerun.

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