Monday, June 29, 2009

Same - Same, but Different!

OK first of all - I know a few of you had tried to leave comments on my previous posts but were unable to unless you had a certain type of email account - that problem is now fixed due to Jess, my blogger expert who is teaching me all the ropes of this blog thing. So if anyone wants to leave comments it should work now - but if it doesn't please let me know.

So it’s Monday and we are no longer in paradise – vacation is over and we are back in Bangkok! We got our airfreight shipment over the weekend – this is the first 450 lbs of our stuff. Quite exciting – Joe got two bags of his coffee and I got a gallon jug of my hair gel so life is good! I’m not sure what we were most excited about – our own towels, a bath rug, our own bedding with sheets that FIT our bed even if they just barely fit, or perhaps it’s the normal size trashcans. Actually, I think we are both voting for the trashcans. We spent most of the weekend putting things away while today I started making a list of the things we still need to buy – magazine rack, media tower, laundry storage cart, kitchen cart, surge protector, 220V toaster oven, 220V crock pot, shoe stand, small chair mat and trash cans – yes, more trash cans. One can never have enough trashcans. We have way too many rooms in this place of ours. I need two more small trashcans – one to put by my vanity area in our bedroom and one for the guest bath. Today the embassy showed up with our lazy boy recliner for our bedroom and our shoe storage bench for the entryway only it is not nearly large enough for all our shoes. Yes, we are going native – no more shoes in the apartment. I now know why Asian’s don’t wear shoes in the house – they track dirt all throughout the house and it takes forever to mop the floors clean in this apartment. And speaking of going native – so Joe told me last night that I have definitely gone native with the whole not working thing. So in our airfreight shipment was my iHome, which is an alarm clock docking station for your iPod. We were busy setting it up and I decided to set it up on our dresser away from our bed, as our nightstands are pretty small so there isn’t enough room. I get it all set up and then I had Joe set the alarm for what time he wanted to get up in the morning for work. The clock came with a remote control. Joe was all concerned about whether he could turn the alarm off with the remote. I didn’t think he could at first so he was like I’ll just use my little cheapie travel alarm clock. Of course I looked at him like he was crazy and then he said to me, “You have totally gone native with the not working thing. Do you honestly think that I want to be forced out of bed RIGHT AWAY to shut off an alarm?” Hahahaha – we both got a good laugh out of that and then studied the remote a little more and it does control the alarm function!

So obviously there are some things over here that are different. Most places here, even the nicest, do not come with dishwashers or garbage disposals and laundry machines are outside on the balcony. I also learned this weekend that we are very lucky we are in the apartment building we are in because the other apartment buildings have an issue with the bathrooms and the kitchens smelling of sewage. I am most thankful for our building now, as we do not have that problem. So we have four bathrooms in our apartment – this includes the one in the maid’s quarters that has a squat toilet. We were told to be sure to flush each toilet at least once a week otherwise bugs will come up the pipes and out the drains in our bathrooms. Lovely. Don’t have that problem in the US that I know of!

They have this saying here, “Same – same, but different.” The Thai’s say this ALL the time. At first I did not quite understand it and would just kind of laugh it off. I now understand. I use this saying when describing my experimentation with cooking western foods. If you want to make something for dinner at home it takes a while to find all the ingredients – if you can, that is. Once you find them you may say to yourself, “Hmmm it doesn’t quite look the same as it does back home.” Then you make it and it doesn’t quite taste the same either, so you can now say it is, “Same – same, but different.” Now I get it. We’ve had a few failed attempts at recreating recipes we used back home. Anything involving beef is out the window at this point. We went to a Marriott Resort last week and ordered a cheeseburger and it was the nastiest burger I have ever had – the meat had NO fat in it at all and it was dry and chewy and had a disgusting flavor. So I am done with beef. Chicken and Pork both taste fine here though. The seafood is okay but often tastes fishy. It all depends on what you get though. It is rare that you can find a dish here that does not have some form of seafood in it. And usually they try to make it taste fishy on purpose by adding fish sauce to it! YECK!

So the rain is getting increasingly worse here. Everyone tells us that while this is the rainy season the worst is yet to come. Apparently August and September is truly when the Monsoon rains begin. And here I thought they already had – I mean doesn’t rain flooding the streets up just past your ankles in a matter of seconds count as a Monsoon? Apparently not! According to a friend that traveled here during the Monsoon season it will get up to your knees. So something to look forward to – rain flooding the streets up to my knees – don’t see that every day! I have noticed some patterns with the rain though. At first it would rain every afternoon around 2 or 3pm and the rain would only last 30 to 60 minutes, but usually only 30 minutes. Like I said it would be flooded up to your ankles or so within a matter of seconds. It dries up quite quickly though once it stops. You can always tell when it is coming, as soon as you say to yourself, “Wow, it’s not so hot out anymore, I might actually feel a little breeze,” that is when you should get inside QUICKLY. Now it has taken to raining in the evening after dark. The rains last a LOT longer and they are getting heavier by the day. Last night Joe and I got stuck in the rain. We had gone out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant about a 10 to 15 minute walk from our apartment. Within about two minutes of our departure from the restaurant all the street vendors started packing up and leaving quite quickly – that is another sign of what is to come. I am not sure if they just have this innate sense of when the rain is coming or what but they just know. Anyhow, within seconds of seeing that, it starts to sprinkle and we quickly pulled out the umbrellas and started walking quickly to the apartment. Then it got to the point where it was just pelting down so hard and so fast that we decided we also needed the ponchos. So we put them on and trek through the pouring rain with our ponchos and umbrellas. By the time we got to the apartment, the rain was up to my ankles, my sandals were completely saturated and from the knees down we were both drenched.

So something funny for you – here in Thailand everything a man says has to end in krap and a woman everything ends in ka. So to say hello, Joe would say, “Sawadikrap” and I would say, “Sawadikah.” To say Thank you, Joe would say, “Kapunkrap” and I would say, “Kapunkah.” Apparently it is common for a man to say Kapunkah or Sawadikah and when they do, the Thai’s assume that man is what they call a “Lady Boy” so apparently there are a lot of Thai’s walking around thinking Joe is a lady boy now because he is ALWAYS getting it wrong!

Oh and here is another funny that I don’t think I’ve shared with you all yet. Or did I? I forget – sorry if it is a repeat. So, one day on the way to the pool there was this conference of some sort going on in the auditorium on the 8th floor. As Joe and I were walking out onto the terrace to go up the stairs to the pool this British woman came running after us yelling, “Farangs Farangs!!!” So Farang in Thai means Foreigner. Imagine if we went down the streets of DC yelling after someone not from the US, “Foreigners, Foreigners!!!” We’d be sued if not killed first!

OK that’s about all for tonight. It’s nearly dinner time and I need to go the grocery store to get a few items.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Andaman Sea Kayak Adventure - Part 2

Here is the video of our Andaman Sea Kayak Adventure - hope you all enjoy!  

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Andaman Sea Kayak Adventure

This is a must do event if you travel to Thailand.  We started off on the large boat pictured below....there were about 5 couples and one had a kid.  

The boat ride lasted about an hour and they took us to this small little island, Koh Naka Yai Island - there was a hut with a bar that served drinks.  They had beach chairs set up and you could rent them for 150 Baht (just shy of $5) per chair.  The water was completely clear, calm and the perfect temperature.  I dove right in and could have stayed there all day.  We were the only ones there except for those working the bar.  I think they were the only people on this island and they lived there too.  I thought how simple a life they must have - no stress, no worries, no commute to work, no traffic/road rage etc.  I imagine they have very little possessions but are still quite happy.  

Wild chickens on Koh Naka Yai - there were tons of them running around the place.  I suspect they eat lots of chicken for dinner there!  

Lunch is served on the boat.....

Another shot of the lunch....

This is tempura - they will deep fry anything and call it tempura here.  They had various items deep fried on this platter - my favorite was pineapple!  

And another shot of the lunch - anyone hungry yet?  Obviously Joe was - he took lots of pictures of the food!  

A view from our boat of Phang - Nga Bay, a shallow bay with 42 islands.  It is most known for it's famous James Bond Island as they call it.  

Joe and I on the boat with an island in the background.  Do we look hot?  It was a scorching hot day on the boat!  

Joe and I on our kayak with the James Bond Island in the background - quite a view - and the best way to see it I must add.  The kayak ride was very calm and peaceful and relaxing.  

So we kayaked through caves on the side of the islands - you have to wait until low tide so that you can go in through the caves.  At some points we had to lay down flat in the kayak to get through.  Inside there is a lagoon with all forms of nature and animals.  Here you can see a full shot of the kayak's we were in - unfortunately we don't have a picture of ourselves in one where you can see the full shot of the kayak.  The couple in the kayak here were a part of our tour and they were from Germany.  Each kayak has a guide who does all the work.  Our guide was Pek and he was great - he was always pointing out things to us and would stop the kayak to take our picture for us.  

This was in a lagoon inside the island - Joe and I really like this picture as you can see the sun rays coming through!  

Look real hard and you can see a little creature here.  Weirdest thing.  It has a head on it like a frog and has legs and can walk.  It has a tail like a fish and swims underwater.  Sort of looks like a tadpole but they never develop into a frog - they always stay this way.  They are called Mudskippers.  

Joe and I ventured out of our kayak in the middle of the lagoon where it was very shallow to pose for a picture.  

This is what they call bat cave.  It was totally dark in here and I had to hold a flashlight while laying down so that the guide, Pek, could see his way.  The flashlight barely worked I might add - no idea how he got us through there.  Anyhow, at one point he told us to look up and we did and with the flash light we could see likely thousands of bats hanging from the ceiling.  If you look at this picture below that is what you'll see.  Later we saw some flying around the lagoon on the other side.  It smelled some kinda bad in there too!  

Another picture inside the lagoon....

This is our view from the kayak while going through the cave - pretty amazing!

That's all for tonight - Joe took one hour of video and is still working on getting it down to a short 4-5 minute clip - I'll let you all know once we update the blog with the video!  

Hope you enjoyed the pictures!  

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Patong Beach on my Birthday and Elephant Ride with Siam Safari the Next Day

So I celebrated my Birthday here in Thailand on the 23rd of June - which was still June 22nd back home - so we decided to celebrate two days! Joe wants us to celebrate all week because he feels he is less likely to forget a Birthday week than a Birthday! So we started off my Birthday with a visit to the spa here at the Marriott where we both got a Thai Traditional Massage. This is similar to the $12 massages we've been getting on the beach - only this one was more expensive and it actually was better. They basically stretch your body like in yoga. They use their entire body to assist you in doing so too. These ladies were standing on the table and using their arms, elbows, fingers, feet, knees etc to assist. It is amazing just how flexible the human body is - even for two people in horrible shape! Sometimes it hurt but it was all worth it in the end. I was so relaxed I fell asleep for three hours in our hotel room immediately following it. It rained most of the day so it was a good day for this. In the evening we caught a shuttle ride to Patong Beach, which is where the touristy area of Phuket is located. We had dinner reservations at Baan Rim Pa, which is a really nice Thai restaurant right on the water. It had a very scenic setting and had the sun come out we likely would have seen a gorgeous sunset. Maybe, next time. On the shuttle to the restaurant we spoke with this man from Singapore who was vacationing with his wife and kids. He was very nice - works for a US company in Singapore and was telling us all about it there. He mentioned how much he likes President Obama and how he read his book. Our dinner at the restaurant was great - we had a mixed appetizer plate with Po Pia Thod (spring rolls), Mee Grob (crispy vermicelli), Gratong Thong (minced chicken and sweet corn in pastry), and Goong Sarong (deep fried prawns rolled in yellow noodles). I know we had a couple other items but I am not sure what they were and I just looked up their menu and they do not appear on their online menu! We shared a Tom Ka Gai soup, which again was delicious and is my new favorite. Our entrees included Gaeng Garie Gai (yellow curry with chicken) AND Hmoo Paad Khing (stir fried pork with ginger and black chinese mushroom). Dessert was sticky rice with mango and sweet jelly cream topped with coconut cream. It wall all very good.

After dinner we caught a ride into the town of Patong Beach. We were looking for insect repellent with deet so we were told to go to Boots Pharmacy. This place has every type of medical supply you could ever imagine needing - and it's all over the counter - even what would be a prescription antibiotic back home - here you get it over the counter. We got what we wanted and then decided to walk to the shuttle pick up point and stay in that general area - that was quite a walk. The street you take to get there is basically their red light district. It was bars and clubs up and down both sides of the street. There were people outside soliciting to get you to come in. At least a dozen times, I was asked if I wanted to come watch the female strip tease. I kept asking Joe - do I look like I want to watch a female stripper? There were Americans and Australians everywhere. They weren't asking every single person either - they were picking out select ones. I was quite happy when we got away from that street to the main drag at the beach. Then it was like being attacked by a swarm of bees or something. They were coming after you from every direction, “Buy a bag? Massage? Scarf? Picture?” You name it they were coming at us with it. I must say it reminded me of Tijuana - I remember taking Grandma to Mexico and coming back across the border to San Diego and being stuck in all that traffic. Grandma was fascinated by everything she saw but the best part was when she says to us, “That man is carrying a Jesus statue with a table cloth around him.” I told Joe while walking the main strip in Patong Beach, “I am waiting to see the man with the Jesus statue and tablecloth!” He never showed up but everything else did. We finally found the shuttle pick up point and just nearby it they had probably 6 or so foot massage places. Now if you have been reading along in my earlier emails, I mentioned a reputable foot massage place does not solicit outside the shop for work, you can see inside the place and it is not dark and the girls are not always the prettiest and certainly are not "done up" and are well clothed. So Joe says lets get a foot massage while we wait - so you walk up this street and in unison you hear, “Massage? Massage?” Over and over again. We kept passing up the first few places and I kept telling Joe I don't like that they are all outside soliciting. He says well I think it works different down here since this is a touristy area - I think they all do that. So we picked a well lit one towards the end of the block that you could see inside and the two ladies that were sitting outside did not look quite as done up. So we go inside to get our foot massage, about 30 minutes into it - this door in the back of the place opens up and what emerges but some guy and a young Thai girl who was not wearing very much. It was pretty darn obvious what was going on there - especially when she gave him a business card with her name on it. So much for finding a reputable place! I all of a sudden was not enjoying my foot massage as much and almost felt dirty for being there! Our shuttle ride back to the hotel was quite packed and when I got home I had a missed call from my parents and 5 missed calls from my brother with a very sweet voice mail from my niece/goddaughter, Sarah, wishing me a very Happy Birthday. I wanted to call them all back and got to talk to three of my brother’s four kids when I called. By the time we went to bed it was 2am.

So needless to say - we slept in today until 10am. We got showered and ready and had a quick snack for lunch and then met our shuttle to take us to the Siam Safari Tour. Here we had a great time. We sat on a water buffalo that also pulled us behind him in a cart. Joe got to ride on the buffalo though while the rest of us were in the cart. We saw a demonstration of how a monkey picks a coconut. We learned how to make coconut milk and coconut oil. We saw a demonstration of how rubber is made and saw a rubber tree. We learned how to make Thai orange curry and how to cook with it. We saw an elephant show and were able to feed the elephants afterwards. Lastly - we went on a good 30-minute elephant trek through the jungles of Phuket. This was a lot of fun. The guide sits on the elephant head and keeps his feet behind the elephant’s ears. He controls him by the elephant ears and by using this thing called a hook, which is basically a stick with this sharp hook on it. The guide taps the elephant with the hook lightly and since the elephant skin is one inch thick it does not hurt the elephant. If the elephant is misbehaving then they tap the elephant a little harder with it to control him. We were up really high and I was grasping the safety bar anytime we went downhill at all because I would slide forward quite a bit. After that we went on a big boat on a cruise of the Phuket Bay. We saw some smaller islands where the villagers live - mostly fishing villagers. One of the islands has a small beach there with some bungalows that you can rent that are very cheap cheap! They served us a Thai Traditional dinner aboard the boat - white rice, fried rice, steamed vegetables, chicken with yellow curry, some noodle dish and grilled chicken. It was very good. Our tour consisted of Joe and I along with a family of four from Australia. It was a mother and three children - I would imagine the oldest was 18 and the youngest was probably 12 or so. They were a hoot - we really enjoyed talking to them. They too brought up the topic of President Obama and how everyone in Australia LOVES him. Even the children were talking about this. It amazed me - when I was 12 years old, I was lucky I knew who the USA President was let alone the leader of some other country. The children were fascinated with everything American and were firing away questions at us about it there. Especially the youngest one Jack - he liked to talk quite a bit and was asking lots of questions. The daughter, Samantha, told us that in class one day they were asked if they remember the day the Tsunami hit Thailand and if they remember where they were or what they were doing - she said no one did. She said then they were asked the same question about the twin towers collapsing and she said everyone spoke at once and could say right away where they were and what they were doing when it happened. Anyhow, we had a great time and are ready for more adventure tomorrow! Enjoy the pics!

Siam Safari Video

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thai Massage, Shantaram & Thai Traditional Dinner

So today we experienced our first Thai massage. Now Joe and I have been for other massages before - mainly deep tissue, hot stone and Swedish massages. Our favorite would be the deep tissue - though it depends on who gives it - most times I like it though. I've had one before that was really rough that I swear I came out of with bruises in the end but that was the exception. Today though we had the Thai massage. This was somewhat similar yet not. The deep tissue is more rubbing with pressure. Whereas this is ALL pressure and meanwhile they are stretching your limbs. Basically you are laying down while they do Yoga to you. The lady started on my back and immediately I heard some pops and then she moved up and applied more pressure and then I heard some cracks and then up again and more pressure and then I heard crunchiness. It felt weird at first but yet real good. The really nice thing about it is that the massage place is this little hut with a raised floor out on the beach. There is a roof over it so you are under shade but it is open - there are no walls - it is open air flowing through - and you hear the waves crashing down on the beach as you lay there and get your massage - that was just wonderful. The massage cost us 400 Baht which is about $12 per person and that got us one-hour. We gave them each a 100 Baht tip, which was basically $3 so in the end we each paid $15. Unbelievable. 

After the Thai massage, we headed to the pool and hung out there all day. The flies were some kind of fierce today and we had to buy some OFF - even that did not deter them away. We got some good sun and are working on nice tans. The pool was a bit more crowded today and there was one group of young British guys chasing after some trashy American gal that were getting quite annoying as they were pretty loud. So it was nice today - but not as enjoyable as yesterday was at the pool. 

So yesterday I finished reading Undomestic Goddess - really liked it and cannot wait to buy more of Sophie Kinstella's books. Today I started reading Shantaram which my former neighbor from California recommended. I bought it early last week and just yesterday they had the author on CNN - turns out they are making it into a movie and Johnny Depp will play the main character. It is quite a long book - 900 and some odd pages long. In the first chapter he describes his reaction to the heat when he first set foot in Bombay, India and I actually had to read it out loud to Joe because it was our same reaction to Bangkok. I thought I would share with you what he wrote about it as he really hit the nail on the head:

"The next thing I noticed was the heat. I stood in airport queues, not five minutes from the conditioned air of the plane, and my clothes clung to sudden sweat. My heart jumped under the command of the new climate. Each breath was an angry little victory. I came to know that it never stops, the jungle sweat, because the heat that makes it, night and day, is a wet heat. The choking humidity, makes amphibians of us all, in Bombay, breathing water in air; you learn to live with it, and you learn to like it, or you leave." 

So speaking of breathing water in air - we are going to order ourselves a dehumidifier for our apartment to put in our bedroom. We were told that if we wake up in the morning and are wet feeling then we need one. Joe was complaining of it at first but I was fine and then it finally hit me. Every morning I wake up just wet - it's from the humidity in the air. The guys at his work all have dehumidifiers in their apartments - with huge buckets on them and they say they have to empty it 2-3 times a day as it is completely full each day. Here in Phuket you can see water on the outside of the windows from the humidity. 

Tonight we had dinner at the Thai restaurant here. We got the Set Menu for 2. We got a sampler platter of appetizers and salads picked out by the chef - chicken satay, vegetable spring rolls, scallops, papaya salad, spicy Thai beef salad, and some fish thing wrapped in seaweed. We were given soup to share - Tom Yum Gai - this was by far my favorite dish. It is coconut broth with chicken, lemon grass, mushrooms, some green leafy thing and I think that is it - oh and ONE loan red chili that snuck in there towards the end and burnt the daylights out of my mouth - I downed an entire bottle of water and then some. You eat the Tom Yum Gai with steamed rice - it is sooooo good. Our entrees included Stir Fry Vegetables in Oyster Sauce, Deep Fried Seabass in a sweet sauce, and Fish Balls in Yellow Curry Sauce. So Joe tried the fish balls and decided they were pretty good. I tried them and nearly threw up - they were the most disgusting thing ever. They had the most pungent fishy taste to them ever. I took quite a swig of water to down it as quickly as I could before I gagged right there! The rest of the food was good but we couldn't finish it all. It was a lot of food and we wanted to save room for dessert. For dessert we were given a Thai sampler of dessert. First they brought out a plate of fruit - watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, rambutan and mangosteen. Our waiter was very chatty with us all night and at this point he decided to quiz me thinking surely I would fail. He pointed to a fruit and asked me if I knew what it was - spoken with confidence, I quickly informed him it is a mangosteen - and he nearly dropped to the floor in shock. He immediately says, “How you know that?” I said, “Because I live in Bangkok and eat them every day.” Again, he nearly passed out on the floor – “You live Bangkok?” I said, “Yes I live Bangkok!” He was shocked. Next he brought us another plate of samplers - this had some sponge cake thing that was okay but nothing to write home about. It had this flaky orange colored thing - no idea what it was but it was really, really good. It was light and fluffy like and bright orange in color. Then we had this dark green jello like looking thing and apparently it is made from rice - it was really good. And finally we had sticky rice with mangos (my favorite). It was a phenomenal meal (except for the fish balls for me) and we have the photo's to show you! Enjoy!

Video of the Rain from our Apartment

Here is a video Joe took of the Monsoon rains from our apartment.  I think this is a hard thing to capture on video - the video does not do it justice.  It is something you must be there to really experience.  The sky above you just unleashes and the rain comes down in sheets all at once.  It dries up quite quickly due to the heat here.  It usually only lasts 30 minutes though one day it lasted a good hour and we were stuck outside in it - completely drenched.  The rain flooded the streets within minutes and it was up past my ankles.  Mom said to get a bigger umbrella - I think the only thing that would have protected me from the rain that day was if I was enclosed in a bubble - no umbrella - no matter the size - would have protected me from getting drenched.  You can always tell when it is coming - you'll see a few dark clouds rolling in and then there will be a breeze - if this happens - get inside quickly!  Anyhow - enjoy the video!  

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thailand Videos for our Non Facebook Users to enjoy!

Here are videos that we posted in our first few weeks in Bangkok onto Facebook for friends and family to enjoy. Those of you who are non Facebook users - can now enjoy them too via my blog! Enjoy! Sorry to those of you who have already seen these!

Lumpini park video - this is the Central Park of Bangkok.  This is where we saw the HUGE monitar lizards that we sent pictures out of already.  Enjoy!  

This is dinner at the JW Marriott in downtown Bangkok - we had dinner at their Thai restaurant which was very good and they also had entertainment for the evening.  

This is a video of Tawandang German Brewery - we went there our first week in Thailand with some friends from Joe's office.  This is a really fun place and some place I would recommend taking anyone from the states.  It is a must see.  The food was very good too.  They had all these Thai people singing American songs which was quite funny.  They had these skits they did too and a beer chugging contest.  The game to play at your table is spot the kathoey - this is a man who has had surgery of some sort to become a woman.  Some had very good surgery and are hard to spot but some are quite obvious.  This is a common thing here.  

More Bangkok and our First Day in Phuket

So I've been meaning to tell you all about the stray dogs here - they are everywhere and are the mangiest looking creatures I have ever seen. They actually scare me and I move quickly to get away from them. We've been told to buy a tall umbrella so that we can use it to shoo them away as pretty much most of them have rabies and they do attack. We both got our rabies vaccine before coming here but apparently that does not completely safeguard you from Rabies - if bitten we must go to the ER immediately and we still must get the shots in the stomach - just not as many as if we did not have the vaccine. Lovely. Anyhow - they call them Soi (pronounced Soy) Dogs.

This week I enjoyed lots of pool time. I bought some books and have almost finished my first book - Undomestic Goddess. It has been a rather relaxing week. Late in the week, the President of the American Women’s Club in Bangkok contacted me, as she wanted to meet with me to convince me to join her club. I already knew I was going to join as I have heard about it from so many people and everyone recommends it. So this was my first time navigating the city of Bangkok in a part of it that I had never been - all on my own. I was a little apprehensive but had no choice to make a go of it - in the end I found it with no problems - even though her directions were slightly off. We had a nice meeting and she told me all about the club - they do charity events and they have various groups that are part of their club. Every Monday a group meets to discuss Adjusting to Bangkok - I am definitely going to check that out. They have a book club, sewing club, needlework’s club, bowling group, tennis group, golfing group, bridge group, mahjong group, bunco group, ladies night out group, coffee group, lunch time group, dinner out group, shopping group, pamper group - you name it they have it. Pamper group caught my attention as they kept mentioning I should join it - I immediately said well we don't have kids (thinking clearly it was a group for those with kids). She laughed at me and immediately said no - no, pamper as in going to get facials and massages. I am all over that one. So it sounds like there is plenty to keep me busy if I get involved with this club.

So Friday Joe and I received some new pieces of furniture from the embassy to go with what the apartment complex provided. We got a china cabinet, floor lamp, two large bookcases, computer desk, and two large carpets (living room and bedroom). We are quite happy with our extra pieces as it is filling up our very empty apartment and making it feel more like home. We still have a shoe storage bench and a recliner coming that will be delivered a week from Monday - along with our Air Freight Shipment! Woohoo! Our first shipment of stuff is here - quite excited. I am quickly running out of hair gel and Joe has already run out of his fancy Colombian coffee!

Friday night, Joe and I boarded a plane and took a quick flight down to Phuket, which is an island south of us just off the coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea/Indian Ocean. It was approximately a one-hour flight - we flew Thai Airways, which is a star alliance with United. The seats were a bit small but the food was actually quite good - and we were sitting in economy! We were amazed to even get food. I made a little friend on the plane - a little 6 year old boy from Canada who has two homes - one in Canada and one on Phuket - he kept telling me all about them and how excited he was to come home to Phuket and that he has lots of toys here. We took a limo service to our hotel - the JW Marriott Resort and Spa. We managed to get our room upgraded to one with a terrace and lounge chairs due to our platinum status with them and we also managed to stay here for $70 per night, as we are now Thai Gold Members. They have this club you can join if you are living in Thailand. I think we paid $72 for it and we were given like 10 vouchers for 50% off at certain hotels (this being one of them) throughout Thailand. You get a membership card and you get 50% off food at their restaurants and 15% off beverages at their restaurants. We have figured out that in the end the card ends up paying for itself. Our room is quite nice but the bed is still hard as a rock here - though not as hard as the one in our apartment. We spent all day today at the pool. They have three pools here - the one near us is awesome - it has a bar in the middle of it that serves you drinks and food. They have really nice lounge chairs all around the pool with umbrellas and tables - and a staff of people waiting on you the entire time. They come over and wrap towels around your chair for you and then bring you ice water. The come around often with the water pitcher to refill for you. They basically wait on you hand and foot. You can go out on the beach - there are very few people there but most of the people that are there are getting massages. They have tents set up on the beach with beds that you lay on and you get Thai massages on the beach. A one-hour massage is 400 Baht, which is approximately $12. Not too shabby - I think we'll test it out tomorrow. We had planned on doing it today but we were enjoying the pool way too much. The place is pretty much deserted and there is no one in sight. I remember going to Hawaii - Maui and the Big Island - on our honeymoon thinking this is the most relaxing place on earth. Then we went to Hawaii again for my job on a two-week trip - went to Kauai for a few days and fell in love with that island thinking no, this is even better. Then we took a family vacation to the Caymans for Christmas one year and I was like now this is the life - this is so much better than Hawaii. Now that I have been to Phuket - I cannot imagine it getting better than this. It is the ultimate in relaxation - not a care in the world. So they have all kinds of excursions you can take - elephant rides, AV tours, kayaking tours, boat tours to the other islands, fishing trips, snorkeling, diving, old town Phuket tours, rafting tours and the list goes on. We are going to look into signing up for some of them tomorrow - there are a few that are high on our list - elephant ride, kayaking, fishing and a boat tour of the other islands (we'll only do fishing and a boat tour if we can get Joe some dramamine though). We enjoyed a great dinner tonight - I had fresh steamed lobster and Joe had fresh grilled red snapper. Then we walked around and Joe took some night shots here at the hotel (see attached photos). I think they are going to have to give me some more of those vouchers - I am going to need to come here once a month just to get away from the noise and busy life in Bangkok!