One of the great things about living in such a beautiful country is I get lots of visitors! Last week my friend Sid came for just over a week. As usual, it was an exciting week filled with many unexpected twists and turns along the way- from plucking and preparing a chicken straight from the backyard, stumbling across a camp of monks, having our hotel receptionist take us to the nearby hot springs, to riding in a van on winding roads through the mountains only to have a baby throw up in the first few minutes. This made for a not so lovely ride home, but convinced Sid of the value of the Thai “nasal inhalers” you see everyone sniffing on.
Our first day in Thailand we spent in Bangkok where we took a cooking class and visited the ancient city of Ayuthaya, the old capital before Bangkok. Its quite a magical place, with many different temples dating back over 500 years. After a busy day in Bangkok we headed down south to my site. My family was, as always, incredibly welcoming and made sure Sid got her fill of Thai food. We even got down to the nitty gritty of it and helped prepare the chicken for the Tom Yum Soup my sister made by plucking its feathers and watching its blood coagulate.. One of my neighbors, Pi Naa, came over to make her famous Masaman Curry. When we weren’t eating or cooking Sid came to school so my students could practice their English and “interview” her.
On the weekend we traveled to Ranong, a province North West of Chumphon. Just getting there was beautiful, as we drove through palm covered mountains. Ranong is known for its many waterfalls, hotsprings, and an island called Koh Phayam. The first night we went to Rakswarin Hot Springs, known to be so hot you can “boil an egg” in the water-at 65 degrees C. The hottest spring was too hot for me to even submerge a toe. (Though one seasoned Thai went completely under and didn’t seem phased a bit..) After getting a tip from one of the Thai’s relaxing in the water though, I was able to go in to one of the *not quite as hot* springs. Apparently if you keep very still while you are under water it doesn’t feel as hot. I tried this trick, which worked suprisingly well. The slightest movement makes the water feel significantly hotter though. The water is amazingly theraputic- even if you do look like a lobster when you come out.
The next day we went to Koh Phayam. I’ve heard many compare this island to the Maldives. The sand has beautiful designs in it and large rock formations can be seen jutting out of the water in the far distance. The land is covered in cashew trees, with pretty pink fruits that grow along with the nut. It was a quiet island with few inhabitants. As Sid and I were exploring we stumbled across a group of Monks camped out along the beach. They all had tents pitched up and were drying their robes on clothes lines. As we continued looking around there was a temple at the end of a long pier, right over the ocean. It looked like a hidden little paradise, and was a beautiful way to end Sid’s trip.
Its always fun having visitors because I get to see Thailand again through a fresh pair of eyes. Its easy to get distracted by the diffences and dwell on the day to day frustrations. I’m reminded of how exciting some things were at first that have slowly morphed into the mundane and that I can reclaim the spirit of wonder I had when I first arrived.