After the horrible fight I did a full reset that included and was not limited to some beach yoga, swims in the tropical rain, deep thoughts, vodka, Netflix binge, retail therapy and making plans. I’m feeling deeply thankful that my problems are so small. Winging it is a good theory but as it turns out I’m not nearly as laisez fair as I thought I was. While planning is definitely not my strong suit, just hanging on a beach drifting the days away are not working for me either. No matter how beautiful the beach. Especially since drifting the days away looks entirely different with a three year old by your side. So we have sketched in some dates and further planning – at least for the next few weeks – month. I guess where the winging it comes in is that the new plan is entirely different than what we had already replanned on. For now we remain on the beach on this little Island so Chris and Anderson can pursue their goals of flying across the waves. I am actually contemplating taking a couple more classes in Kiting – because – you know – it scares me and people always say do something that scars you …I mean scares you. I’m going to take a few days of thai language and culture classes, we have booked a day excursion to Angthong nation al Marine park Islands – an archipelago of 42 protected Islands where we will spend the day snorkelling, hiking (hahahaha sorry kids) and cruising around. As my sister advised – the really touristy things are that for a reason – they can be really worth seeing. Our new besties Ronan (yes I have had his name wrong for at least a week and a half) and Annamai have gone twice and they highly recommend it – in fact – they had just returned from their excursion when we ran into them at the night market last night. Aside from being a bit cooked from the sun they were thrilled with the day.
Cut to a week later and I can now confidently count to ten in Thai – considering how often I use my count to ten in German skills I figure I’m golden for the rest of our time here in Thailand. Thai language classes were great if not only to realize how insanely difficult learning a new language with an entirely new alphabet is but also to meet the United Nations that were my classmates. There were two of us with English as a first language then one French, one Spanish, one Farsi, one Urdu and one Hebrew. So imagine translating twice as the class was taught in English. Next up were the tones – 5 for every word. Mah – when pronounced Maaaa means dog but then you can pronounce it Mah sounding tired or Mah! Sounding angry or Mah? As a question or Maaah rolled out like a spring roll – explained the teacher almost singing it. Then there are sounds that we just don’t make “dpeu” like a diphthong sound and “ng” which just lives in your nose and can not involve your tongue in anyway touching anything in your mouth. Our sweet teacher, Duang, watched our mouths and if we didn’t look right she would say NO! AGAIN! And then laugh her head off. Luckily we were all subject to the ridicule and everyone played right along. I can now order my favourite dish – papaya salad – say thank you – say no thank you – ask for water – and most importantly say – I don’t speak Thai. Plus lets not forget the always helpful counting to ten. Six hours well spent.
Then the glorious day on a boat exploring Ang Thong National Marine park. We were picked up in a taxi/shuttle – in Thailand these are just pickup trucks with a platform welded onto the flatbed. They have a canopy and two benches that run along either side. You get packed in like sardines and then hang on for dear life as the truck whips around corners – turning the ride into a live action version of the kids song where the little one says, “Roll over, roll over” they all roll over and one falls out until the little one is “Alone at last”. We arrive at the pier and begin loading onto the boat like lemmings. It’s a big boat with three levels a huge diving board and slide off the top and cushions on all the seats. Then we walk through that boat and down a gang plank to our actual boat. A little rougher around the edges and smaller but with a diving board and slide nonetheless. As we are pulling out of the harbour Bobo our captain informs us the questions are 10 baht so no questions and we set off. What a perfect day. The first place we stop is a snorkelling cove – jammed with three speedboats and strewn with bobbing orange life jackets. It was sort of ;Ike snorkelling at a mall – bumping into all the parts of people you don’t really want to bump into. Luckily the fish were amazing and the coral was pretty. Although I have to say snorkelling with a three year old riding on your back is a whole new experience. Then it was back onto the boat – Chris and Anderson took a couple turns on the diving board and we had lunch. At the next stop we were shepherded onto a long tail boat and whizzed onto shore, paired off and given kayaks – in an other stroke of luck a third was added to Anderson and my kayak (Sabine was not allowed to kayak – park rules) so having Tyler from San Diego was a great help. We went around the island dipping under the rocky overhang and trying to nimbly navigate our way around rocks and outcroppings. It was beautiful and funny and a little painful. Definitely not a kayak you would want to trek long term in. Then we hopped out and headed inland to a “secret” lagoon – I mean secret like only our family and the ten thousand others that visit each year know about it. There were stairs up and over and down to the water – very steep and in the direct sunlight – the truth is walking around during the day in this area of the world is a little like being 24 poses into a hot yoga class. The beauty helps to ease the heat and on this day being able to dive back into the water. Although we weren’t allowed to swim in the lagoon (ten thousand bodies visiting with sunscreen would kill the eco system of the lagoon). But a quick 437 stairs later we were able to get into the ocean. We were once again herded into the long tailed boat and off loaded back to our big boat. We carried on through the turquoise and celedon waters past jungle topped islands to arrive at the big island to hike and cave. The hike was a non starter for Anderson who only wanted to stay on the boat and jump off the diving board. We managed somehow to get him back into the long tail to shore and pawned him off on one of the crew to take him caving. I mean – what could go wrong? It’s not like anyone has ever been trapped in a Thai cave before. But seriously neither Chris nor I wanted to miss this hike – the views were supposed to be breathtaking so off we went. This hike also had stairs the entire way – it was very steep with four view points on the way up. Thankfully it was cooler because it went through the jungle. Chris carried Sabine the entire way save for about ten steps at the top so she could pretend she did it herself. Sometimes it feels like we are going backwards – she walked all the way up the stairs from the harbour around the old city in Quebec this past August but now she refuses. We couldn’t pawn her off on any other crew members so she was carried princess style to the top. The view did not disappoint – lush green islands trailing off into the distance, indigo water giving way to pale turquoise and then bright sand. We returned to the beach and attempted to cool off while we waited for Anderson to return from the cave – which he did ecstatic to tell us all about the stalactites and how long they take to grow – so there school taken care of for the day – he actually learned because it wasn’t Chris or I trying to teach him. There was one more nail biter in the long tail boat to the big boat then we headed on home.
We have had some great times with Ronan, Annamai and their kids – so amazing to connect with a family where it’s so easy to spend time and everyone genuinely enjoys each other. We rented kayaks for a day and paddled out to a small island – it was one of those perfect picnic days – we found a little beach – unfortunately strewn with what seemed to be the remnants of a roof along with many plastic bottles. We built a fire! I mean really we did and roasted some hilarious mini hotdogs I had purchased from the 7 11 – where I had also procured a bag of chips and these along with an almost empty jar of peanut butter and a baguette was our lunch. Of course Annamai and Ronan had arrived with all manner of fruit and vegetables and sandwiches – I’m sure they don’t really believe that I cook food for a living. Funny thing is that since arriving here I have just dived right into the entire not cooking thing – I was so sure I was going to miss it, I mean I did miss it while we were in the camper because I could cook but not really what I wanted to cook with the two burner and one pot situation. Suddenly I love not having to think about all the meals – well that is a little bit of a lie – of course I still think about all the meals but now I just think about where I want to go for all the meals or what I want to eat. It doesn’t hurt that we are here where the food is so much of what I love to eat. Sure it’s possible that I will get sick of charcoal grilled fish, papaya salad and green curry but it hasn’t happened yet. Plus Chris found an incredible French bakery – helmed by an actual French person from France – Florine bakes incredible baguette, crisp and chewy and beautiful croissant, small, flaky and perfect. She stocks creamy Brie and salty blue cheeses and pulls a perfect Americano. It’s not budget but it is luxurious.
Tomorrow I will bid a bittersweet adieu to Koh Pha-ngan. There have been beautiful sunsets, moon rises, night markets and new friends along with some tough days, hurtful words and lots of questions but I have grown to love this island with crazy backpackers, enlightenment seekers, kite boarders and all. I almost bought a pair of crotch drop soft pants yesterday so I know it’s time to move on. Just as I try to pull Chris’s hair into a man bun or start designing a bamboo tattoo.