Celebrating Songkran in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai was a lot of fun during Songkran. We did the whole supersoaker-waterfest in the old city for a day, and decided after that we would fill our trip with some sightseeing. Having lived in Thailand for almost two years, we knew it would be pretty easy to find a driver with a minivan who could take us around to the typical tourist destinations for pretty cheap. I just asked a few friends who had been there over the past year, and they were all glad to share the contact information for their drivers. So, the next day we piled into "Mr. Su"s van, and set of for Doi Inthanon and Wat Inthanon, perched at the top of the highest peak in northern Thailand. The weather was gorgeous, and the drive was pretty exciting thanks to the people on the side of the road still throwing water at cars, but when we got to the top you couldn't see far. I guess they burn brush and clear property by fire, so the smoke spreads from afar and gives the sky a pretty thick haze.

It didn't matter, except we all became a little congested. Wat Inthanon has gorgeous gardens to ramble around, and afterwards little Nate strolled quietly into the temple on his own, kneeled down, and prayed to Buddha very respectfully. He still doesn't understand what he's doing. Or does he?

We stopped by a waterfall for a lunch break, and later stopped by a roadside stand for some fresh fruit- it was an easy, rambling day. We also stopped by the "long-neck village" which wasn't what I wanted at all, but oh well-I think Mr. Su was just trying to make us happy. Unfortunately, the karen tribe tourist stop isn't really our thing. I actually had a village that I had asked him to take us to: one which didn't have any souvenir shops or an entry fee, just villagers going about their farming, weaving, cooking, etc. Our driver must have thought his idea was better for us. Oh well...

We also spent an few hours the next day on a shopping trip, so I could pick up a few baubles, some hand-painted umbrellas, and some real Thai silk. The silk shop was our favorite, because they boys could actually see the life cycle of the silk worm up close, all the way to seeing them boil the cocoons and spin the thread out of them. 

Then we followed the advice of a fellow employee and headed over to the Chiangmai Night Safari. What an adventure! We first stopped for a quick bite to eat outside the gate at the restaurant, where you could watch the tigers, giraffes and zebras right next to your table! In the park you could go on two rides through the animal exhibits, buy carrots and bananas to toss to them, and sometimes even feed them directly from your hand! Once or twice Nate snuggled close, when we passed the more ferocious creatures, but most of the ride was a lot of fun. After zooming through the park in the dark, feeding animals, and watching a phenominal water fountain/light show, we had to return to the giraffes and say some heartfelt goodbyes:

It was also fantastic staying at the Centara, as always. Their boutique hotel on the outskirts of Chiangmai was gorgeous, well-kept, and had great staff there to help us. Our villa was incredible, with room for both the boys and a canopy bed for us, and of course the GIANT jacuzzi tub outside, that we used every day to scrub the dust and dirt off after our treks. I'm just at that point right now where if we must travel, its worth spending a little extra to not be cramped, but instead be just a teensy bit pampered. And have enough room to stash our purchases....

Living the Life, and Loving It

Dear friends, have you missed me? It has been so long since I've shared our adventures, and the past two months have been full of them: events, holidays, trips and parties. There have been so many times where I wanted to write about our life in Bangkok, talk about the nights on the town, and the great people we meet, but it felt too much like bragging. Would you even believe me anyways? Or would you grow disgusted and think me an image-crafter with my "look at our marvelous life" posts? I don't like to sulk, wallow, or depress you with the bad days, but if you don't know me very well perhaps you would misunderstand. So, maybe we have had some bad days, some mysterious fevers and anxious visits to the med unit. There have been fights and squabbling, grownup and children alike. And there are the day to day things you know we all have: the bills to be paid, the car breaking down, the trials and tribulations of an ordinary family.
Its all there, no need to waste your time. We've been through some challenges lately, but all that matters is we are just fine. No need to drive you crazy with any "look at my marvelous life" posts as well. This post is nothing like that. Let me take you somewhere in the middle, just a step above an ordinary day. "A step above" I say simply because if it were ordinary, we would be back in Plymouth, or perhaps watching the swan boats in Boston, instead of speeding boats on the khlong. That was little P a few weeks ago, on our way back from jiu-jitsu. I'm never sure what is more amusing; the look on his face as he waves to the passengers, or the look on theirs when they see a cute little boy trying to get their attention. People here are just. so. nice. to kids. So, for me, that still feels unusual sometimes.
And then there's my honey, striking a pose with one of our best friends here. She helped him throw me a 50's-themed birthday party. It was adorable. Is it normal to have such great friends? I don't know, but we've met people I love so much its going to be hard to let them go. So, I suppose that is a step above the ordinary. I guess I didn't think enough upon that fact that we would say goodbye to the friends we make every 2-3 years. It sure does make you appreciate them so much more.

A few weeks later we celebrated Easter at the Embassy, with a big party and egg hunt. I'm extremely grateful that both boys are well past the "mortally terrified of Santa and the Easter Bunny" stage. No, Nate wanted to go home and come back in his Nemo fish getup, just to keep Mr. Bunny company. He's cool like that. I should have mentioned earlier that he underwent several costume changes at my birthday as well. Nemo-dragon-and back to Nemo. The kid has style.

Definitely not normal for us is the annual Songkran holiday they have in Thailand every year. Its the Thai New Year, and the tradition started with people washing the hands of their elders and buddha statues out of respect, and snowballed into an all-out, no-holds-barred, with blocks of ice waterfight. This year we went to Chiang Mai to see how they celebrate, and it was insane. The roads were like a guantlet, with people packed onto the backs of pickup trucks, armed with supersoakers and buckets of ice water, and the sidewalks lined with people too. Philip totally got into it. Nate, not so much.

So we escaped for a day to Doi Inthanon National Park, hiked, saw waterfalls, and tried to stay cool.