Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Whirlwind Travel Days

When I looked at the date of my last post, I couldn't believe it was only three days ago. So much has happened since then. And, a whole lot of ground has been covered. Literally. On Sunday, we flew from Xi'an to Hong Kong, where we made every effort to maximize our short overnight visit. We had our first experience with dim sum, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Afterwards, we took in the famous Hong Kong light show down at the harbor. The following day, after a quick breakfast at a chain-y coffee shop (because the kids rejected a local place after reading "Pig Blood Curd" on the menu), and after stashing our bags at the designated area in the airport, we made the long bus ride out to see the Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha), which sits on the property of the Po Lin Monastery. At 112 ft. tall, we felt he was appropriately named. Clay was absolutely thrilled to see such a large statue up close, and we all enjoyed the experience of being at the lovely monastery, up in the mountains. After climbing up the 268 steps to the base of the statue and giving it a good looking over, we headed back down for a vegetarian meal at the monastery. For most of our group, it was the first opportunity to try tofu, which was met with mixed reviews. Overall, the meal, which was served family-style, was good, and we all found things we enjoyed.

From there, we headed back to the airport to catch our flight to Bangkok. It was our first time flying Sri Lankan Air, but we are all hoping it won't be our last. It was so nice and had so many amenities, a couple of the kids thought we had mistakenly entered the first class compartment, rather than coach. We all had our own screens, each equipped with a wide variety of movies and games, so the flight passed quickly. (By the way, I chose to watch Bridge of Spies, with Tom Hanks, and I just want say that if you haven't seen it, you absolutely must. Admittedly, I don't watch a lot of movies, but I'm a sucker for movies inspired by true events. It is the best movie I have seen in some time, and it has left me with a great many things to think deeper on.) By the time we made it to our apartment, it was late, and we were all ready to call it a day. Unfortunately, around 11:30 pm, the landlord contacted us to let us know that we would have to vacate before 8:00 in the morning, because she had an exterminator coming, and she couldn't reschedule. She apologized profusely for the inconvenience and even refunded the money we paid for the night, so it wasn't all bad.

So, bright and early, we strapped on our packs and headed out to explore Bangkok's breakfast offerings. We found a hotel not terribly far away offering a buffet breakfast that seemed perfect for our hungry group. Our train wasn't scheduled to leave the city until 7:30 pm, so our goal after breakfast was to find a way to keep the kids entertained without spending the day lugging our packs around in the heat and humidity, which, though very welcome to us after months and months of coldness, was not ideal for tramping around with heavy packs on our backs. We took a cab over to the Funarium, which was the best decision we could have made. Inside the large air conditioned building, we found a huge jungle gym, a bike track, a trampoline, a climbing wall, a ball pit, a sport court, a cafe, clean (and fully equipped) restrooms, and a couple of masseuses. Everyone was perfectly happy, and we had a wonderful day.

Eventually, we headed to the train station. So we could catch an overnight train, so we could catch a bus, so we could catch a ferry, so we could catch a taxi. So we could get to my happy place on Koh Samui. I have already declared my intentions to stay here indefinitely. If it weren't for the fact that there is still much of the world to be seen, I probably would, too! This place is amazing! Our house sits right on the beach and is huge and gorgeous. The sea breeze blows through our windows, and fragrant, beautiful flowers bloom all around. I can feel almost tangible changes in my body and my attitude (not that either was noticeably ill before). We walked down the beach and had a delicious lunch at a place with a sand floor and no walls. The younger boys played on the beach and in the water, and they found a coconut, which they worked on cracking. Eventually, Ruth helped them get into it, and they were all disappointed and disgusted to find it rotten, stinky, and full of worms. We found another fun beach restaurant to eat at for dinner, and were treated to a small fireworks show as we made our way back to our house. So far, everything about Koh Samui is absolute perfection. I am looking forward to spending the next couple of weeks here.

*I'll try to add pictures tomorrow.

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