Pretty Girls in Thailand; Around the World, Part I

Pretty Girls in Thailand; Around the World, Part I

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Location: Thailand to a P&O Cruise
Date: March 2012

Trent and me in Bangkok visiting the Golden Buddha
March 2012
Recently, Trent and I took a trip around the world with two of our children (those who could get away with missing so much school) and some of our good friends.  Instead of trying to remember all the details of our trips, I thought I would just share some of the excerpts from the journal I kept throughout our vacation with a few added notes and travel tips.  This adventure was amazing and coordinated months in advance with four other couples.  We all wanted to see a part of the world we hadn’t spent much time in or at all, so that is why we chose to travel on a P&O cruise ship (owned by Carnival, but run by a British company) where we could travel to countries like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Oman, and the UAE, but then – after our excursions on land – return to British living standards at night on the ship.  It wasn’t as ideal as coming back to an American ship, but it was still much better than other options.  Here is the first segment of our travels.  Enjoy!
Bailey reading a Japanese newspaper at the Narita airport in Japan
March 2012
Our Trip Around the World!
First Stop: Thailand
We are in Thailand!  After 28 straight hours of travel time (about 24 on a plane and the other 4 in transit), we finally made it.  Our adventure started Saturday, March 3, at 7am as we left San Antonio and headed to New York City.  Yes, we had to fly east to catch our flight west.  From JFK, we headed out at 12:55pm and started this around-the-world adventure.  It only took 13 hours and 20 minutes to get to the Narita Japan International Airport where we arrived at 4pm local time on Sunday, March 4.  Though this trip was planned with several other friends, we had no idea that our friends, the “O”s, would be on this last leg of our flight to Bangkok since they were flying in from Salt Lake City via Seattle.  It was a welcome sight, but all of us were feeling quite yucky after having just crossed the Pacific Ocean.  
The view from our room at The Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok
March 2012
Flights & Immigration
We left Japan at 5:30pm and arrived in Bangkok at 11:30pm local time.  This time we had to go through immigration which is never really that fun.  The minute we get off the plane, Trent likes to power walk as fast as he can to get through immigration before the long lines start forming.  Usually all the other international flights seem to arrive at the same time, so we are always racing with others and navigating to the shortest lines.  Trent is pretty good at looking ahead to see if there is one officer or two working the lines which usually helps us to make good time getting through since sometimes the wait can be quite lengthy.  I’ve noticed that most people avoid getting in line behind us since we have children which seems odd since it usually cuts the line down faster when families go through together versus individuals who go through one-by-one.  

Going through immigration always makes me nervous since Trent has so many stamps on his passport to crazy dangerous countries because of his business.  Once when we were going through in Israel, the immigration officer didn’t like that Trent had a stamp from Saudi Arabia and questioned him for quite awhile as I sat there patiently trying not to feel guilty for not doing anything wrong.  However, most immigration agents are delightful and give a little smile and cordially welcome you to their country, especially when you’ve got children with you like we did this time.

Once we’ve gone through immigration, its time to get the luggage which is quick and easy since usually the immigration line was so long the luggage has been turning in the turnstiles for some time before you get there.  This time, we grabbed our bags, put them on big carts, and headed once more through customs and drug-sniffing dogs, hoping we weren’t one of the “lucky” ones to be pulled aside and asked to open our luggage.  Luckily, we were among the fortunate ones to get through quickly and start our true Thai experience.

Navigating our way over to our meeting spot, we hooked up with our driver who Trent had arranged to drive us to our hotel.  The driver told us it would take 14 minutes to get to the Peninsula Hotel (though it really took more like 34 minutes;).  Now the time was going on 1am, and we stumbled out of the van and into the beautiful foray of the hotel.  With only a few bellboys awake and one service agent at the registration desk, our arrival was quiet.  We got our room keys, traded in some US dollars for some Thai Bhat, and were taken to our rooms.

Since we have Clayton, 9, and Bailey, 13, traveling with us, we got two rooms that connect in the corner on the 24th floor of the hotel.  This is an amazing hotel!  The push button curtains open and close on demand, and there’s a TV by the bathtub and little doors to tiny spaces where you can put your shoes out to be polished during the evening by some wonderful, little Thai shoe-polishing elf!

We were quickly all showered and in bed in no time and ready to get a handle on our jet lag.  Since Thailand is 13 hours ahead of San Antonio, we knew we needed to get on schedule as quickly as possible.  To do this, Trent and I try to stay awake on the flights!  We try not to sleep, so we can get as tired as possible and go to sleep when we get to the country where we are traveling.  It worked perfectly since we arrived so late at night.  By going to sleep right away, we were ready (kind of) to start our day today at 7am.  
My beautiful breakfast in Thailand
March 2012
This morning we got up, though I felt like I could still sleep for days and went to breakfast.  Our breakfast was an amazing buffet with anything and everything a person could ever desire.  I do think that foreign buffets are the best!  We again hooked up with the “O”s and since they brought their two children, M, 9, and L, 11, it worked out perfectly for Clay and Bailey to make fast new friends. 
Trent with the Golden Buddha, the largest solid gold Buddha in the world
March 2012

Visiting the Buddhas
Trent and our friend, W, set up a little tour with our concierge, and soon we were off to see the sights of Bangkok.  (There’s nothing like a local to find you a taxi and become your own personal tour guide for the day – so if you haven’t set up a tour, then just create your own!)  It was an amazing day visiting four significant sights and temples.  We started with seeing the Golden Buddha.  He is the largest, solid gold Buddha in the world!  Trent got a great picture pinching Buddha’s bootie and was one of my favorite pictures of the day. 

The Reclining Buddha is so large and in such a tight space that it is hard to take a picture of it
since this is as far back as you can scoot to get all of him in one shot.
March 2012

Moving on, we saw the Reclining Buddha (it’s exactly what it sounds like), but this Buddha was humongous.  It was the largest stature I’ve ever seen – probably half the length of a football field!  We visited the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha where you have to take your shoes off, wear long skirts or pants, and cover your shoulders to visit.  I recommend taking a scarf for trips like these to holy sights to make covering arms easy and quick.  Since it is usually stifling hot in these places I also recommend grabbing a long skirt for girls that you can pull up over your shorts while you’re in the van on the way over to the sight.  For boys, it’s a little tougher but bringing a pant with a wider leg usually works.  Ball caps are a sign of disrespect, so I don’t usually let my boys wear hats since there is nothing my kids hate more than hat head photos while visiting a cool sight.  
When we were going in to see the Emerald Buddha, I had Clay with me, and the guard standing at the door grabbed Clay’s hand and led him over to a chair where the guard could sit down to look at Clay.  It was a weird moment, especially since I was worrying that the guard just saw me pour some water from my water bottle on Clay’s popsicle-soaked hands outside of the temple and was going to reprimand us for doing this.  However, the guard looked at Clay, took both of Clay’s hand in his, and asked, “Where you from?”  Clay responded he was from Texas.  The guard then looked at another guard who also had the same puzzled look as the first, and I could tell he didn’t know where Texas was, so I interjected, “He’s from the USA.”  Sounds weird, I know, but it’s the way many people refer to us outside the states.  The guard then had a huge smile on his face and said, “Good to meet you.”  I think Clay was relieved at this point to know he was not in trouble, but then he started to realize how strange this situation was so, as little boys do, he squirmed his hands away and just said goodbye to the guard as we went in to kneel at yet another Buddha statue.  This particular Buddha gets a special outfit put on him at the beginning of each season and though we were dripping in 90 degree weather today, the Buddha was dressed for winter because apparently it’s winter in Thailand!
Clay donating some Bhat to the prayer chimes
located along the wall behind the Buddha
March 2012
Thai Yoga Massage
By around 4pm, we were all exhausted and ready to head back to the hotel.  The kids wanted to cool off by the pool, and we knew better than to take a nap in our room and risk messing up our internal clocks we were trying to reset, so we took them down there and ate dinner.  I love the food at this hotel!  It is delicious and presented in the most beautiful ways.  We enjoyed sushi and sashimi, paper rolls, and chicken satay all poolside while the kids swam and Trent and I relaxed.

Later that evening, we sent the kids up to our room, and Trent and I indulged in a Thai Yoga massage.  It was the best massage experience I have ever had in my life!   Opposed to a traditional massage where you are undressed laying under a blanket for a strategic working of the muscles, this massage requires a scrubs like outfit that is worn loose as you lay on a 4-6 inch pad on the floor.  Since Trent and I were doing this together, our mats were placed next to each other in a room that looked as mystical as the land we were visiting.  The floor had water intersects to step over that had river rocks at the bottom with water easily passing over.  The lights came down in huge pendulums that resembled illuminated punching bags.  The wood work was old and pitted with iron locks and handles that added the combination of old world to the beautiful modern serenity of the spa. 
Our two therapists were both Thai, and they began by washing our feet.  At this point, we were not exactly sure what we were in for.  I was guessing that it would be relaxing and not too strenuous since the title of our treatment had the word “yoga” in it.  After our feet were washed, we laid down face-up on our mats to start.  My therapist began by massaging my feet and worked up my leg with no oils or lotions.  Then the stretching began.  My body was contorted in so many stretches I could not even begin to describe them all.  If it sounds awful, then I’m not describing it accurately since it was so relaxing that sometimes I did fall asleep.  At one point, when the therapist had me roll over, she gave me two rolled up towels and had me put one under my chest and the other under my forehead so that my face was down but not smothered into the mat.  Then she climbed on my back, wrapped my feet around her shins, and then reached for my outstretched arms.  She had me take a deep breath in as she pulled my arms back.  My forehead lifted off my rolled towel, and I looked as though I had become airborne or like the girl on the mast of a ship.  She had me exhale as she lowered me back onto the mat, and then she repeated this two more times.  The stretch I had in my back and shoulders and abdomen was wonderful.  When the massage was over, I felt like I’d been through a boxing match but I felt good, rejuvenated, and excited to start our big adventure.  It was a luxury experience I will forever bookmark in my mind when recalling the wonderful city of Bangkok.  
Buddahful… 😉
March 2012
The P&O Cruise
Tuesday, March 7, was uneventful since it was just a travel day.  I will admit I woke up early with aches from my massage the night before.  I took some Advil, but that only made my stomach queasy from not having any food in my system.  I pushed through it, and we packed up our luggage.  Still not feeling my best, I laid down to get some rest before our hour and a half drive to the dock where we would embark on our cruise.  We were now traveling with four couples since our hotel was our meeting point (some of the other travelers were in other parts of Thailand having started their vacation earlier than the rest of us).  By noon, we were off in two vans, and it was a very long drive for me.  I would feel good, then sick, then okay, and then sick again.  I wasn’t sure if it was all the lactic acid that had been released and now needed to be expunged from my body or if I’d come down with food poisoning from the large amount of watermelon I had eaten at the hotel the first morning of our arrival.  At one point, Trent had me convinced I was pregnant but that didn’t make me feel any better.

We finally arrived at port and boarded our ship.  We had booked one cabin with four beds since we brought Clay and Bailey with us, but we were grateful the “O”s offered to give up one of their cabins, so their kids could share the room with our kids and Trent and I could have a room to ourselves.  I quickly went to sleep, wondering if I was suffering from the massage, food poisoning, or maybe just jet lag from our 28-hour flight.  I woke up just to do the ship muster drill, and then I was off to bed for the evening with hopes that the morning would bring a better day for me.  Thankfully, that is exactly what it brought!

I really liked this sign posted in Singapore.
It really summed up the whole trip for me!
March 2012