Let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming: Happy-go-lucky posts recapping the Thailand adventure.
We hit the road again on Day 5, post Bangkok, leaving from Hua Hin toward Phuket. The 8 hours ahead of us were daunting, but we were committed to enjoying the journey, so we stopped off at an interesting-looking bay.
All the signs on the roads in Thailand indicate, pictorially, what the attractions in the area are: a waterfall, a bay, a beach, whatever. The country is also dripping with pictures of the king and queen; revered highly within the culture. Apparently, you’re not supposed to disrespect any imagery of the king (unsurprising), but that didn’t stop Brandon and me from questioning his true age in the privacy of the car.
“That picture looks like it was taken in the ‘60s, and he looks about 45 there,” Brandon said. “How old, really, is this guy? Is he even alive?”
The king pointed us toward the bay and we were greeted by a man with a semi-automatic rifle. Despite what you may think, he hadn’t been wire-tapping our car: it was our first exposure to the serious measures the army is taking to stop human trafficking from Myanmar. If you’ve noticed in the news, Muslims are being forced out of Myanmar, often by execution, and are thus taking their chances sneaking over into Thailand. (A hotbed for this activity is, apparently, in Phuket – every time we passed through, we were racially profiled from the car and waved on while they looked for more, I guess, suspicious-looking people.)
Our military friend watched us closely as we walked along the beach to see the boats. His hand resting on his gun, we noticed he was protecting some sort of local military base – and thank God, because we’d been considering some sort of debauchery.
We booked it pretty quickly away from the bay, but driving out of town, I saw something unusual.
Something moving in a fountain.
Something… slightly human.
Anyone who’s met me knows that monkeys are one of my greatest passions in life; seeing them was my only goal in Costa Rica, and not disparate from the reasons Thailand appealed to me.
There were hundreds of monkeys jumping into and out of the monkey-statue fountain. Hundreds. Playing with each other, collecting fruit, stealing my chips, bathing, chirping, jumping, running, and capturing my heart. My soul leapt with so much joy when we pulled over to the fountain, I could barely contain it. Their tiny monkey hands grazed mine as I passed out bananas, the tiny monkey babies clung to their mothers as the moms jumped around. It was truly magical, even when I got too close and they threatened to attack me. It was still my favorite moment of the trip. They know I forgive them and can hear their spirits whispering to me even from America.
We made one more stop in the town before heading back out: another local beach, this one sans rifle men. Brandon caught a great video of me bounding out to the water, like something out of a music video – and as he pans back, a glimpse of reality strikes when you notice me crouched from a tumble into 1-ft-deep wet sand.
Down to Phuket, we were greeted by endless rain. The Renaissance treated us like royalty from the moment we checked in to the moment we left, no doubt from a tip from one of my amazing client friends: an incredibly generous upgrade to a villa with a private pool, free breakfast and massages, F&B discounts, fruit in our rooms. Everyone knew our names and asked us the whole trip how we were doing and whether we’d enjoyed the earlier parts of the day. At night, they had a free happy hour showcasing local flavors, and the pool had a simply gorgeous view of sunset over the beach. We felt like the luckiest people alive, even in spite of the weather.
Thai massages are interesting – we had a few while we were in the country (I opted for the aromatherapy, gentler version at the Renaissance). If you haven’t had a Thai massage, it’s not your standard, easygoing approach that we’re used to in the States. It’s a full-on bodily contortion and light beating, generally delivered by some of the strongest and tiniest women I’ve ever seen. The full gamut (unless, I suppose, you frequent the parlors with the women in short skirts outside) concludes with being punched multiple times in the spine and neck. Not altogether painful per se, but, maybe, disconcerting. I think I’ll stick to yoga to stretch out.
While we were in the South of the country, we hit up Phuket town (RAYA is a GREAT restaurant – had the best crab curry ever there) and Krabi. The weather didn’t work with us super well, but we made the best of it and had some delicious seafood Tom Yum Soup at a hole-in-the-wall in Krabi. The clouds began to part on our way out of town, so we hit up a local beach and ended up getting there at just the right time to walk across a sand bar in the middle of the ocean out to an island – achievable only during low tide. We couldn’t resist a few pictures there, particularly when we discovered a heart-shaped edifice nearby (which Brandon romantically called Butt Rock).
We decided to leave Phuket a day early not because it wasn’t amazing, but because the weather just wasn’t happening for a beach trip, so Brandon packed up his new flip-flops, scratched his thousand mosquito bites, and jumped back in the car with me. Back to Hua Hin, then Bangkok the following day!
I’ll spare you the details of our return trip to Bangkok, involving a 5 hour plight to return the rental car and an angry husband who discovered I’d routed us into the middle of Bangkok instead of the airport. But suffice it to say that we got back to the Chatrium and made it full circle in our trip… including one more stop by the ol’ pad Thai place. (I opted for no shrimp this time.)
We wrapped our stay with a stroll through Patpong Market and an interesting Ping Pong show that reminded me of a cross between the Clermont Lounge and a hardcore porn video. Don’t Google it. Perhaps it was an appropriate end to our time in the land of fifty shades of grey (pardon the lame joke)… a display of vulgarity to jolt us out of the spiritual world and back to Earth.
And now, I sit back on the way to Seoul, and continue to repeat the mantra of counting blessings. I can’t wait to see our herd of animals again tomorrow – even if none of them are monkeys.