Other kids!!! Our dreams have come true – al least for the next couple of days. It’s a holiday in Thailand so suddenly some families appeared at the hotel – expat families living in Bangkok – Romanian, Spanish and French all speaking English – Anderson is in heaven. I am in heaven. There are two pools here so the rag tag gaggle of limbs and vocal chords is at one pool and Sabine and I are at the other. Unfortunately – Sabine is not super welcomed with the other kids and no amount of cajoling on my part is helping. The thing is I totally remember my momma trying to get me to take Carla along when I was off to play with my friends and it was the worst.
Anderson brings all the new friends back to our room to make them snacks. I am not invited. He puts together a beautiful platter of ritz crackers, apple slices and peanut butter – my heart swells. Then he rims glasses with sugar and pours ice teas – the kids are dazzled – mostly by my lackadaisical attitude toward sugar rims. I slip back out to the pool. When the sugar hits I’ll send them to the other pool.
The truth is dawning on me that while we set out for this year to be about seeing new cultures, trying new foods and living with less inadvertently we have fallen into the opposite. Staying at hotels has helped us meet new friends – who stay at hotels – we now have breakfast made for us everyday, the rooms are cleaned and we slip between freshly laundered sheets every night. On top of which laundry arrives IRONED and smelling of sunlight – actual sunlight not the soap. It is total luxury. I am going to have a really hard time going back to my reality.
Next up is a day at the beach – Chris kites all day – Anderson and the big kids build forts in the rocks surrounding the super fancy Hotel Morroc (I’m sure the staff loved that) and I sat in the sand digging with Sabine and her new friend Mia and Mia’s mom Elena. We all had lunch at the beach – Vincent – Elena’s husband a French man who has been in Thailand for 18 years ordered for us – it was fantastic. Pran Buri is actually a little fishing village flanked by piers with “squid beach” at one end (where they have racks of little squid drying in the sun) and all the fishing boats tied up at the other end. Vincent orders us a seafood feast – prawns, squid and mango salad with dried shrimp. All stuff I wouldn’t have known to order. Later we run into a few other kite surfing friends we met on Koh Pha-ngan and a couple staying at our resort so it becomes a little social affair. The Romanian family – mom Ioana (pronounced Yo Ana) and her two kids Robin (8) and Tania (12) invite us to join them at the National Park 40 minutes away for a day of caving and beach time. They have rented a two bedroom so we can join (similar situation when the kids find friends she likes to encourage it). So the next day we set off in Ole yellow the bee for the National Park. We fly down the highway – yes highway – pretty sure we would have our children taken away from us if we were in Canada – no helmets, no seat belts no doors. Past farms and fields and the mountains grow up alongside covered in jungle. We arrive in the little town – drive along a promenade with the water gleaming and sparkling on one side and absolutely nothing on the other! Well the occasional massage spot but no hotels and no restaurants – peaceful and serene. Then the road curves away from the beach and a few streets in we turn into a hotel/condo complex and find our friends place – huge apartment opening onto a pristine pool surrounded by trees with huge white perfumed blossoms. They have a private deck on the roof that overlooks the water and the mountains. The grounds are manicured and stunning with winding stone paths and bushes bursting with colour. We are all feeling pretty posh until we pile into Ole Yellow to drive to the cave. Once again Ole Yellow comes through transporting all seven of us over some gravely ground and delivering us at the mouth of the cave.
Of course I woke up in the morning with all the excuses running through my head – I have never been caving and I really do not have any desire to go caving to see bats. But I really don’t want my kids to take on my Debbie downerisms so I shut up and happily strap on my head lamp and covered shoes and proceed. We start scrambling straight up some sharp rocks into the jungle – slick with foot traffic and fallen leaves. Half way up we meet a park guide who smiles widely and ushers us further up and into the jungle where we find a steep ladder leading us down into the gapping maw of the mountain. Immediately I know this is not the excursion for me. Then I see a middler aged woman standing at the bottom of the ladder – she smiles as I pass her and start further into the cave and says, “not for all the money in the world”. I think – don’t even get me started lady – but I carry on. There are stalactites covering the ceiling and soon we are crawling on hands and knees under them. Sabine, who has demanded to have her own headlamp, is clutching it in her hands and whimpering while Chris patiently edges her forward shimmying along himself. We rejoin the others where the ceiling rises a bit so we can sit hunched over now covered in sweat with rivulets of dust rolling down our faces. Someone decides it’s a fun idea to turn off our lights and sit in the pitch black listening to spiders creeping about (okay okay I couldn’t actually hear the spiders but I KNEW they were there). Finally after an eternity we click the lights on as the kids repeat it was a dark and stormy night dissolving into fits of laughter. We carry on scootching along until we get to huge opening the ceiling rising up twenty feet. Hung with stalactites and yes bats – hundreds and hundreds of bats swinging peacefully their bodies glinting black velvet. I spot a big spider just above the guides head but keep it to myself incase he is a joker who thinks nothing of capturing a spider in his hand and passing it around. After a few minutes of flashing our lights over the gently swaying bodies the bats decide its time to switch places and begin to swoop around – the good news is that this distracts me from the constant refrain and images in my head of an earthquake sealing off the cave and us slowly suffocating to death. We stay and watch the swooping ballet for an other eternity and then we are led along a small two foot path – stalactites dripping with bats looming above, the cave wall to our left and a twenty five foot drop onto more pointy rocks to our right. We climb down a ladder to the rock strewn floor covered in – you guessed it dear readers – bat guano! Could this day get any better? We scramble along – I just barely manage to hiss at Chris,” Do not let her put her fingers in her mouth!!!”. Up the slippery boulders toward glorious sunlight a quick stop to ogle a gekko with the biggest blackest eyes and we are out of the cave. I can safely say I will not be doing that again. But a huge shout out to Chris who did it all while carrying Sabine. I have no idea how he manages.
We spend the rest of the day on a deserted beach – almost perfect except for the small jellyfish that Anderson manages to get stung by. We round out the day watching a full orange moon from the private rooftop and then wander down to the restaurant to torment the other diners with our hyper children.