This picture wasn't actually taken in Thailand... it's a flowering bush outside the train station across the street from our house. We just think the flowers are cool, so we had to put the picture somewhere. As usual, most of our pictures in Thailand are of John, so we are sorry to those of you who actually wanted to see pictures of the country but you'll just have to visit yourselves if you want a better glimpse. And we highly recommend it, too. Thailand is by far our favorite thing we've seen since we've been here. Both of us remarked, on our first day there, that for the first time in a while we actually felt like we were in ASIA. Somehow things feel different in Malaysia... maybe just because we're growing accustomed to the surroundings here, but really it felt like more than that. The people, the architecture, even the temperature was more of what I'd expected when we first moved here. Especially the people-- I can't remember the last time we were surrounded by so many warm, accepting, friendly people. Of course, it's a tourist town (Phuket) so they usually wanted to sell us something, but you could see it in their eyes and in their smiles that they were so open and wanting to help.
On our drive in from the airport, our taxi driver wasn't exactly sure where our hotel was located, so he apologized profusely and asked if he could stop and get directions from his friend, who was a travel agent. She came out and chatted with us, suggesting things we might like to do when traveling with an infant, and when our driver came back he was still apologetic (even though he spoke almost NO English) and brought us a bag of goodies to make up for the wait. They were a warm pancake-like treat, some with a sort of custard-ish filling, some with a combination of custard and sweet corn. (Sweet corn is a very popular treat over here... they have stalls selling things like coffee, donuts, and sweet corn-- just serve it up hot in a cup!) We though they were delicious and happily munched on them for the duration of the drive.
In Phuket, we stayed near Patong Beach, which is the largest and most popular spot, but thankfully we visited right at the end of the off-season, so there really weren't a ton of people there. Our hotel definitely wasn't busy, and we thought it was sort of a little tropical paradise.
The hotel staff certainly seemed to enjoy our visit and we couldn't get past the lobby without one of them reaching out to grab John and show him off to everyone else. It was fun to watch him with them, although admittedly mom got a little annoyed at mealtimes when we were trying to get him to eat he had 4 or 5 hovering waitresses as an audience. It was only frustrating because John got a cold the last 2 days there and we couldn't get him to eat anything. He just wanted to share his bread (or whatever he was holding) with the entourage standing around, and they were more than happy to take it from him, laughing at the cute American boy. sigh. We really did like our place, though, and would recommend it to anyone. Here is the website-- it was called Hyton Leelavadee.
Admittedly, we understood why it was still considered the low-season for tourists when we how bad the rain was. The pool pictures were taken one afternoon when I was sitting in a beach chair, relaxing under an umbrella, reading The Bourne Identity, while John & Michael splashed around the pool. Without warning, someone began pouring giant buckets of water over my umbrella... at least that's what I thought until I realized that it had started raining. Big, fat, warm drops drenched everything in sight. Thankfully the umbrella was large enough to keep most of me dry while I took pictures of John & Michael, playing in the pool, in the rain. John just thought it was cool, pointing at where the drops were landing in the water and saying "bubbles!" The locals there seemed used to it. We learned you just had to watch the shop keepers-- they could tell when it was going to rain and started pulling in their merchandise, or covering it with plastic. That wasn't nearly as educational, however, as DRIVING with the taxi or tuk-tuk drivers in the rain. (A tuk-tuk is sort of a flat-bed truck with the back covered by a roof and plastic down the sides where people can sit. You negotiate with the drivers how much you'll pay for a ride and hop right in the back. John thought they were pretty cool, and by the end could recognize them, even learning to enunciate "tuk-tuk" really well.) But apparently they are used to driving in the rain because they would TEAR along roads at break-neck speeds with a torrential downpour virtually covering their windshield. It about gave me a heart-attack, but I guess that's what seat belts were invented for, right?
OK, we'll close with a list of our favorite things about Phuket, although the list really could be a lot longer. These were just the things of note that will stand out on our trip.
- fresh pineapple is heavenly... and fresh pineapple JUICE is nectar of the gods
- the 2 things john liked most about our hotel: the resident cat and the hotel safe in the room. we didn't even need to bring toys.
- michael & i learned that john talks in his sleep. i've never heard anything more cute in my life.
- there are TONS of european tourists in phuket. tons. they catered to them in many ways, including crepe stands, reminiscent of several western european countries. they offered the traditional fare (nutella, banana, lemon & sugar... mmmm... remember paris, jared?) but also threw in some local variations, including pineapple & coconut, which i tried. the guy just hacked open a fresh pineapple and sliced it right off. can you just imagine?
- the beach is always more fun when you have a bucket and NO shovel to make sandcastles because your hands get much dirtier. this was john's first time at the beach EVER and he had a blast!