After almost 3 months in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, arriving back in Bangkok felt like coming home. You might think it was the Starbucks, but actually it was my most amazing and wonderful Thai family that made us feel at home. We stayed with Thip for the second time, and she and Art took great care of us. Not to mention Moay, Thip’s help, who had a tasty Thai breakfast waiting on the table every morning and cheerfully did our laundry for us. Yes, we were completely spoiled at Thip’s place.
We spent quite a few days shopping. Bangkok has amazing shopping. I pretended that I was looking for items we really needed for our Africa trip, however the giant box we sent home on our last day in Bangkok tells a different story. In my defense, if I actually had a job right now it certainly would’ve been much worse. ;-) We did manage to get the essential items we were missing due to our lack of planning for anything beyond Asia (i.e. a tent, sleeping bags, water purification, etc.).
We also attempted to prepare our bodies for the next six months, thanks to the gym in Cakewalk’s building. Although, the progress we made working out was tempered by the copious amounts of delicious food we ate with my Thai family, and the 2 weeks we spent lounging in Phuket. To further our goal of getting healthy for the second leg of our journey, we also got a check up and a malaria test in Bangkok. I had read somewhere that it is possible to have malaria, but not show symptoms until later on. I was afraid that if we got sick in Africa, we may not know with which strain, and therefore might not get proper treatment. I am paranoid. My mind is at ease now though, as we both checked out just fine. (Don’t worry Moms, we will take the anti-malarials in Africa . . .)
Apart from shopping, our time in Bangkok was spent eating, catching up with my host family, eating, catching a few movies, and, well, eating. My host family knows all of the best restaurants everywhere they go, and exactly what to order. It is amazing food, and I cannot believe I managed to gain only 5 pounds. (I’m hoping all the hiking in Africa will get me back to normal . . .) Seriously though, I was so so happy to have some time to just hang out with all the sisters, and to see Mama and Papa a few more times. This family is truly made up of the most kind, sweet, and thoughtful people you could ever meet.
Our first weekend back, we were lucky enough to accompany Thip, Art, Nee, Lek, and Nee’s friend Oil to Art’s condo in Hua Hin. As you’ll see from the photos, these guys know how to make the most of a weekend trip. And Nee’s friend Oil is a fantastic photographer (Most of the pictures are hers, partly because we forgot our camera, but mostly because she took great shots.). Hua Hin is where the King of Thailand now lives, and is a major weekend destination for Bangkok residents. The beach was a little yucky (think everybody walking their dogs on the beach, but nobody picking up the poo), but the pool at Art’s place was perfect for swimming. Not to mention the view from his balcony and, of course, the amazing seafood we ate while we were there. (Did I mention that this family always knows the most amazing places to eat?) We also got a chance to visit Mama, Papa, and Nong Jin, along with some other of Mama’s relatives, who were attending a 5 day meditation retreat at a nearby temple.
In between all of the shopping and visiting, Perry and I stole away for what was supposed to be one week, but ended up being two weeks, in Phuket. I’ve not much to tell you about Phuket because we literally did nothing there. The entire purpose was to read our East Africa and Southern Africa Lonely Planet books thoroughly, get ourselves prepared and planned for the next few months, and generally recharge our batteries. I won’t say there wasn’t a tiny bit of tension between us as we both started to get stressed out over the various safety warnings, and the big budget jump we realized was coming. We had expected that our days of “living the life” on the cheap, as we’d gotten used to in Asia, were likely over. However, I don’t think we’d realized the full extent until after our couple of weeks research in Phuket. In the end though, after all the reading, internet searching, and of course more than a couple of Singha by the pool (got to make the most of it while we can!), we felt as ready and prepared as we were going to get. It was time to go!
Leaving Asia was emotional, especially for me because I still feel very attached to Thailand and to my family there. I think Perry felt it as well. We had become very comfortable in the region. We felt a mixture of sadness, nervousness, and pure excitement boarding the plane first to Dubai, and then to Nairobi.
I have to thank my wonderful Thai family for making our last days in Asia so wonderful. So many special last dinners stick out for me, including Chinese food with the whole family, dinner by the river with the gorgeous view of Wat Arun, and “the last supper” dim sum with Thip and Art on the way to the airport.
Since I have talked about them so much, I want to introduce each member of the Laoruanglert family so you can have some idea as you view our photos . . .
Thip - The most talented pastry chef, not to mention savy business woman and owner of Cakewalk. So busy, with a constantly ringing cell phone, Thip was still always willing to make time for some fun shopping, sightseeing, or to share a meal with us. J’Thip looks out for all of her younger sisters, including me!
Art - Talented designer of women’s clothing, Art’s name suits him perfectly. He is the one who takes care of Thip, the love of his life. Thank you Art for taking us everywhere!
Nong Jin - The busy organizer. Jin has many roles and many jobs, including helping Mama and Papa in the family business (SC Scrap Company), and helping Thip out with Cakewalk. Taking care of us and making us feel welcome was one more task she took on for herself. This girl is one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met.
Nong Lek - The most photogenic person I know. She loves the camera and the camera loves her too. I can’t believe anyone can look that cute all the time. Nong Lek thoroughly enjoys every minute of her life. She graduated her Masters while we were in town, and received her certificate directly from the princess.
Nong Nee - When I first saw Nong Nee this trip I said “You’ve grown so much!”. She said, “Oh Jenny, no . . . !” She tells me she hasn’t grown any taller at all, but she has definitely grown up since I last saw her. I was so happy we got to spend some days together in Hua Hin.
Nong Jan - No longer Papa’s baby, Jan is a pretty, young student with lots of talent as well. She is still studying, but finds time to help out Thip with product designs for Cakewalk. She lives with Thip during school, but was staying at the Bangbon house (where I used to live) most of the time we were there, focused on her thesis.
Mama - Mama has barely changed in the past 13 years. Mama is Mama to all her beautiful daughters, and to the lucky exchange students who get to be a part of this family. While we were in town, the family had a Japanese girl, Midori, staying with them. I could see Mama taking care of her the same way she used to take care of me. During the many massive feasts we had together, both during my year here and during this visit, Mama spends most of her time putting food on everybody’s plate but her own. I guess that’s the secret to staying beautiful and thin! If only I had the will power . . . .
Papa - It is a special man who can survive in a family of 6 women, and still invite more students into his home. Papa is so kind, a proud father, and a very successful business man. And, he absolutely LOVES Elvis Presley. He has become more interested in prayer and meditation over the years. (The bedroom where I used to stay has been converted into a Buddhist prayer room.) While we were in town, he (and Mama and Jin) toughed it out sleeping on the floor of a temple for 5 days at a meditation retreat near Hua Hin. Papa confided to his girls that unfortunately he hadn’t slept at all . . .
And of course, I also need to introduce you to Oh, who, along with Amber, was my girlfriend lifeline when I lived in Bangkok all those years ago. I’m so happy that I got a chance to see Oh and to connect with her again.
Oh - Oh is a lifelong friend. Even though we hadn’t spoken for so many years, it was easy to pick up where we left off. She was my girlfriend lifeline once more, as hanging out with Perry 24/7 has its’ positives and negatives (mostly positives though!). We had so much fun together in Chiang Mai, and again in Bangkok. We can’t wait for Oh to come and visit us in Canada. She is a professor at ABAC (an english university in Bangkok), so we're sure she can find the time during summer break. And, her travel bug is just as bad, if not worse, than ours . . .
For photos of all of these special people, and of our last few weeks in Asia, got to