Friday, March 23, 2007

Thailand: elephants, fish and geckos, oh my!

We have hesitated to travel much for many reasons but mainly because our kids’ sleep patterns are pretty erratic. Finally, we decided just to go for it, figuring the sleep could not get much worse. And while we were very wrong on that front (it did get much worse but there were mitigating medical reasons), we had a great time on our first family Southeast Asia jaunt. We recently flew to Phuket, Thailand (southern and away from all the burning fires and national disaster haze in the north) for a long weekend of beach and more beach.

Phuket is a direct 3 hour flight away from Hong Kong, which is pretty do-able for a family of five. We went straight to our resort complex of a number of hotels, spas and restaurants, a gated and fairly secure arrangement with vehicle checks on par with what Phil gets at the Consulate. While wowed by the water park and the beach, we quickly honed in on the main attraction. The main attraction for the majority of our family was Anna, a resident five year old elephant. The kids ran up to her, petted her, feed her bananas, rode her and loved her. We figured out her schedule, or she figured out ours, and we saw her every day at breakfast and by the pool in the afternoon. While the kids (except Roycie who became scared of Anna through no fault of Anna’s) loved the whole experience, it did make me sad to see Anna grab the tip money we were passing to her handler with her trunk and then stuff it in his pocket.

Once we actually left the hotel, and that was a rare moment, we had the beach. We rented a small boat and spent one afternoon snorkeling. We were pretty far out from the beach (about 30 minutes of boat time) but near a small rocky island. Tori was the first one in and did not flinch when hundreds of tropical fish swam around her. Adam and Roycie, the more cautious adventurers, threw bits of banana into the water for the fish. With surprising precision, they threw the banana right on to myself and Tori so that the fish pretty much engulfed Tori in a fishy cloud. But she was fine with it and waved off my attempts to help. And while Roycie did swim around, she refused to put her face in the water and look at the fish. With Roycie ignoring the fish, Adam trying and Tori screaming with joy (" I am the luckiest girl alive to see brain coral!"), the verdict is still out on snorkeling as a family fun activity.

Being even more tropical (or just less urban) than Hong Kong, Thailand was greener and denser and more alive. We noticed nets about half way up the palm trees and were told the nets prevented squirrels, rats and snakes from climbing up there and damaging the tree. We also noticed many many geckos around the hotel, ranging in size from small and cute to largish and alarming. At night walking back from dinner, the geckos would be swarming around the lights in the hallway, all their little grippy toes silhouetted perfectly by the light for our inspection. We all thought it was lucky that Roycie was usually already in bed by nightfall so she could miss the nightly gecko show. We all loved Thailand but one little three year old thought the wildlife was just too wild.


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