Saturday, January 31, 2015

Best Day Ever

Update 1/5 – 1/11

When Tus brought us back from the market, he brought us in a tuk tuk, which is like a really unsafe ghetto version of a taxi.  This might be why, when the tuk tuk pulled up to our fancy hotel, the manager came out running and yelling at the driver for the audacity of entering the hotels driveway.  Tus told us to dress really warmly the next day because it would be cold on our “nature day.”  Naturally, Maggie wore a tank top. 

Me: I look forward to getting cold later and complaining about it. 
Kelly: This kid is wearing a t-shirt.
Zach: It was either this or the leather jacket! 

Oh! I forgot to tell you that even though we were packing light and for a super-hot climate, Zach forgot to leave his leather jacket in the car at Sea Tac.  Instead of telling Kelly that part of the story, I just told her that he packed his leather jacket so he could look more like Indiana Jones.

Zach after making us wait for him in the lobby for 15 min
“Hey, the guy is waiting for us, guys!”

While we were sleeping, I heard a bird get stuck and kept banging around and trying to get out of where he was stuck.  In my sleepy head, I thought he had flown into the bathroom, and spent quite a bit of the night/morning, dreading going in there to “free” him.  Lucky for me, but very unlucky for him, the bird was actually stuck in a vent so I just told the front desk about it.  They looked at me strangely, but at least I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. 

We drove about an hour to Doi Inthanon National Park, up the highest mountain in Thailand.  Our first very very mini hike took us to see a waterfall. 

Tus: Shh, there is a crazy man watching birds over there. 
Zach and I giggling
Kelly: What?
Zach: I’ll tell you when you’re older.

When we got to the top, there was a bathroom, without toilet paper, for the record.
Maggie: The view from the toilet isn't bad.

Then went to a military funded temple with really awesome views.  This is when I discovered that #fisheyeisthebesteye and from then, I totally abused the use of the iPhone lens my brother got me. 

Tus: Okay, now we go to the market and experience the culture of the mountain people, and then we’ll get some lunch. 
Zach: Can we just have lunch? 
Which is what we ended up doing, but we did go back for some culture afterwards, including trying some homemade liquor.

Zach: You know why I don’t like rings?  They are so big and bulky and then one of your fingers weighs more than the other.

I can’t provide context to that statement because there wasn’t any.

We went back to the hotel, and got a couple of beers by the pool while trying desperately to upload to Instagram and photo streams using a subpar wi-fi connection.  Which led to a “Hotel Wi-Fi rating system” discussion.

Kelly: I complained about the wi-fi.
Me: Did they tell you they’d get to that after the bird?

That evening, Tus took us to the more commercial night market.  I think Zach dashed some of his excitement when explained to Tus that lots of cities have markets just like the one in Chiang Mai.  Tus tried to take to a real place for dinner, but we just wanted to get ice cream – and we did and it was glorious.  If anyone has ever eaten a mint chocolate chip ice cream bar that looks like this, you let me know, because I don’t want it to be a one-time thing.

On this outing Kelly and Maggie got a fish manicure (were the fish eat you’re dead skin) while Zach went to a tailor to have two shirts made (You can see the tailor in the back of the picture.)

Zach was worried that he wasn’t going to like the shirts he made so we encouraged him to be optimistic.
Zach: I don't think I'm ever cautiously optimistic. 

The following day we went to Patara Elephant Farm.  I was extremely nervous about this day.  Not because I’m afraid of elephants, I adore elephants.  I was actually worried about being able to climb onto an elephant, because you know, elephants are huge and my upper body strength is small.  I remember seeing elephants in south Africa and thinking how amazing it was just to be ten feet from them, while in the protective “security” of being in a jeep.  That experience just made this day all the more incredible. 

We arrived and were immediately allowed to pet and take pictures with the elephants.  Then, we got a little speech from the owner about how we were going to be put to work that day, and that this wasn’t a tourist trap as much as it was an elephant sanctuary where everyone on the property, including us, where there for the sole purpose of keeping those elephants healthy.

We then walked down to get another lesson in how check the emotional (ears flapping, tail wagging) and physical (dirt on all sides, sweating, even checking the dung) wellbeing off the elephants.   They sleep 4 hours a day and every 45 min they flip – so if they aren’t dirty on all sides, then they aren’t flipping which means that they aren’t feeling well.  Also, they only sweat from one place, which is in between their “toes” so we had to feel to make sure it was wet and sweaty.  We then fed them by holding up our hand near their eye, saying a command, waiting for them to lift their trunks and then putting the banana or sugar cane deep into their mouth. 

Each of us had our own elephant, mine was Wan Dee and the trainer’s name was Mighty.  She was nothing short of marvelous.  I told her to lie down (with a command I can’t remember which she ignored, and waited for Mighty to tell her to lie down.) I brushed her off, then took her down to the stream where we used buckets to wet them down and then scrubbed with a brush.  This is where it got a little gross b/c elephants have no problems using the stream as a potty.  After that we changed back into our dry clothes and the special trainer clothing and then it was time to ride the elephants bare back.  You could either have them lift their leg and climb up, or climb up their trunk (which is what Kelly had to do b/c her elephant was pregnant), or you could have them lie down and climb up that way.  I was the last to get on mine, and when it was my turn I said, “What is the absolute easiest way to get on this elephant?” And that’s when I climbed onto a tree stump and just walked onto the elephant.   (Later, when we stopped for lunch, there wasn’t a tree stump so I had to get on just like everyone else, and I did, and I was so so proud of myself!)

The elephants climbed up this really steep mountain, but it definitely felt safer than when I’ve done similar climbs on horses, b/c the elephants are very deliberate in their steps, only lifting one foot up at a time.  Except for the baby elephants that kind of just barrel through the forest without a care in the world.  On the top we had lunch, actually the best lunch of the trip in my opinion.  It was a smorgasbord of food laid out on banana leaves.  There were three types of rice wrapped in little banana leave packets, and fruit and fried chicken and various other delights. 

We had a one eyed cat friend at lunch.
Chick: Get him away from me.
Chick 2: Yeah, I don’t know what it is but I don’t want him around.
Chick: Maybe if he had two eyes.
Meanwhile Zach ended up with the cat curled up next to him as he rubbed its belly. 
Me: I have Benadryl in my bag if you need it.

Kelly: When do we take naps? 

When we were finishing up, a baby elephant came over to “clean up” after us like it was his job.  And we were all, “Baby elephant, I don’t know if you’re supposed to eat that!”  I grabbed a bunch of oranges for Wan Dee, and she was so pleased with my offerings, she let me ride her again.  When we were all done we said good bye to our new friends and then spent some time with the mama and baby-baby elephants.  The baby elephants were very into head butting and chewing on our shirts, and it was very difficult to tell them not to.  Actually, very easy to tell them not, but impossible to get them to listen. 

Kelly: The yellow house could fit an elephant right? 

I’m not sure what the context was for this but…
Who is the most responsible?
Anyone but Zach.

That evening, Zach and Tus went for a fitting for his shirts, while Kelly, Maggie and I sat on the balcony, ordered room service, and had some beer while we basked in how awesome the day was. 

Me: I’m #bestdayever to all of these photos, because this really was the best day ever. I wonder what other people have #bestdayever.
Maggie: Whatever it is, it is not as great as our day.
Kelly: Probably their weddings. Psha. 

Then we took another tuk tuk to a place for dinner, which was seriously, just okay.  Maggie told us a story about her mom, when she was working at a hospital, was working with a patient who had twins and named them Gonorrhea and Chlamydia because the doctor had said those two words to her and she thought they sounded like beautiful name for her twin girls.  I’m not entirely sure this is true, but it made me giggle.   Then we headed back to the hotel to watch some more Elementary before bed. 

As we were falling asleep:
Zach: I'm looking forward to a different hotel with a different light situation. 
Me: I don’t remember what the Siem Reap Hotel is like.  I gotta look it up now.
Zach: You know there is a slower way of finding out. 

When I told Kelly and Maggie about this the next morning, they asked, “What is the wi-fi rating?” Good question!  Later I would find it was good enough to download “Tomb Raider” and watch it outside of Angkor Thom. :P

The next morning, Tus took us to hang out with tigers.  I wanted to hang out with the Big, Small and Smallest tigers.  The “Small” tigers were still pretty big.  The rules were very loose.  I had read before we got there that you had to pet them firmly because you didn’t want to tickle the tigers.  You also had to approach them from behind and avoid going near their heads.  We walked into the cages (cages that on the outside had signs saying not to put anything into them including fingers), while the trainer people called us, “American Meat” and then walked around with 5-6 tigers walking or lying around.  It was wild.  When I got too close to a really big one, the trainer said, “Careful, he will bite your neck.” Allllrighty then! At one point, one of the tigers next to me stood up on his hind legs to stretch himself on a tree that was 6 inches from me. The smallest tigers were adorable, but also the feistiest.  Even though they were the most likely to playfully hurt you, Kelly thought that they were the safest because if they mauled me, at least she would survive.  She had a point there. 

In the car on the way back:

Me: How did you do with the tigers? Were you allergic? Do you need Benadryl?
Zach: Of course I'm not allergic to tigers!
Me: How would I, or YOU for that matter, know that?

We went back and got our stuff at the hotel, swung by the tailor to get Zach’s shirts. (Later, at the airport we made him do a fashion show for us during our layover in Bangkok.) When we got to the airport, Karma haunted me for leaving Kristy and Diana in South Africa that one time.  The agency spelled my name wrong on the ticket, and they weren’t going to let me on the plane.  I told Tus that if it came down to it, I would just buy another ticket, but mostly let him deal with the airline to get me on the plane, which he did, eventually.  As we were going through customs in Thailand, they asked for the exit papers, which Zach and I had already filled out.
Zach: I like when past me did things for present me. 

When we got to Siem Reap, I got some Cambodian money, only to find out that Cambodia uses American dollars – even their prices were in dollars and you could get American and Cambodian money out of the ATM’s.  Only crisp bills were accepted though, just like in Myanmar, and if you bought something for say, $1.80, you would get like 1600 Cambodian money back. It was cray cray.  So, Sam, our guide and our driver that I once again never spoke to, picks us up from the airport, and I immediately ask them if they would be willing to wake up hella early and take us to Angkor Wat before sunrise… and he DID!  We even were able to get the hotel to back us breakfasts for the trip.  After around 5 hours of sleep, we were up again! Zach was so excited – it was like his birthday, Christmas and Disney world all at the same time.  We arrived at Angkor Wat when it was totally dark, and waited on line to get our tickets (much like Disney World.) Then we walked across a moat, with only flashlights to light our way.  Then around 200 of us stood around the lake to await the sun rising.  It was pretty magical. 

On our way into Angkor Wat, we saw a monkey with a baby monkey on its back run across my path.  Angkor Wat was pretty cool – built without cement or mortar and then carved after all the stone was it was all built (talk about pressure not to mess up!)  We were all basking in the joy that was Zach’s day, which is also why we kept saying things like, “Zach, you get in the picture. It's your day!” and “Zach’s best day ever!” Then we walked around the palace area and Angkor Thom and Bayan and you know a bunch of other cool “Tomb Raider” like experiences.  And the fish eye lens was in full effect!  I’m sorry I don’t have funnier things to say about this part of the trip, but it was just cool, awe inspiring and awesome.  And then I got real sad because when I went from the hot hot hot to the cool of the air conditioning, I got this crazy headache and thought I was going to be sick so I had to go back to the hotel.  I felt really bad but then I realized I had put an 8 hour day in, so I wasn’t a complete quitter.  Kelly and Maggie went back with me (and we might have gotten a Thai massage!) Zach, meanwhile, went with the tour guide, Sam and saw 5 or 6 more temples. 

Kelly: Did you bond with Sam? 
Zach: Who is Sam? 

At one point Zach climbed where he wasn’t supposed to.
Tour Guide: Where is Zach? Oh! Whoa!
Us: He's fine. He's a climber monkey - let's keep going. 

Zach: So many little kids asking for money.
Kelly: Well you are the rich guy wearing the fancy shirt.
(Did I tell you the only reason we went to Cambodia was to get a good profile pick for Zach?)

Me: When I leave, I can give you guys some of my extra battery packs. Oh man, I can’t believe we only have one more day!
Kelly: And then your power trip will end. It's funny because we're on a trip.
Me: And mine is ending. 

We took a tuk tuk for some dinner in one of the markets.  We went this BBQ place where we met a couple of people from Israel. 

Me: Hey! What was your best day ever?
Chick: The day I got out of the army.
Guy: The day I got off that fishing boat (where they didn’t feed him some days, and abused him.)
Me: Oh.  Those are good best days ever. (Maybe I shouldn’t share our week of best days!)

The next morning, Zach woke up with some much knee pain, that he needed crutches.  Explaining crutches to the front desk was a challenge, but they did understand “walking sticks.”  You know the pain had to be bad for him to decide to use crutches.  His excitement got him through around 8 miles of crutches, which is most impressive.  On our last day, we went to a floating village, Kompong Phluk which had 2000 residents, and was around 2 miles big, and was on one of the biggest lakes I’ve ever seen.  It was dry season though, so instead of a floating village it was more like a village on stilts.  And we had some of the youngest captains steering our boat.

I asked Sam to show me what rice looks like when it’s taken out of the ground, and that’s when I found out that Cambodia has been rated best rice for two years straight.  I tried taking some epic “rice” shots.  We stopped for some lunch that had free wi-fi, and I totally used it like it was my very last opportunity.  After that, we saw three pigs on their backs, alive, and tied to the back of a motor bike.  Which was crazier than the dog that was in a sling and being held by a purse, or the family of six all riding one motor bike. We finished up the day with the Pink Temple and one or two more temples (at one of which Kelly got a bunch of luck from some random guy.)  Zach wanted to go back to Bayan because he read about an explorer guy who got lost in the tunnels.  I went back with him, and his elation made me feel the wonderment. 

When Zach and his “walking sticks” went to the last temple, he reached for his pocket and asked the guard, “Temple Pass?” He took one look at his disabled condition and said, “Don’t even worry about it.”  It was like the Cambodia was Zach’s Make-A-Wish.

We went back to the same market for dinner, where I tried another curry and I liked it.  Then Kelly, Maggie and I walked around the markets a little, and Kelly bought around 50 (j/k) pashminas. 

Kelly, to us as we were leaving Breakfast: I really liked it here in Cambodia. 
Waiter: Really? 
Us: Yeah 
Waiter: I really like it in the U.S. 
Maggie: Grass is always greener I guess. 

We finished up the trip with a flight to Bangkok where we bid farewell to Kelly and Maggie as they continued on to Krabi, and Zach and I spent the next 16 hours in planes and watching Elementary. You know, because it felt like a 4 countries, 2 continents kind of day. On our way back, I was going to pick up some green tea kit kats for friends – but Zach made fun of me.  So instead, I bought Oreos at the airport, because it’s the thought that counts! Dawne and Jordan picked us up from the airport.  When we got home we made them watch a slide show of pictures so we could stay up long enough for it to be appropriate to go to sleep.  A sleep that not great.  The great part of that was when I woke up at 5 am, I totally could wake up Percy to play with me. 

Flashback, here is me and the lucky lotus flower from Bankgok, thanks Kelly!

Thanks for letting me share!

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