This entry is So Huge, So Exciting, So Side-Splitting, so Page-Turning that I made it into two parts to keep you wanting more!

Okay, okay I really did it for the sake of the few of you that actually READ my blog. I didn’t want to bore you into a coma. It was just too long. So hope I don’t lose any of you; and if you just came for the pictures of your grand kids (you know who you are) make sure you go to the bottom of Part 2 there’s a slide show!!

Searching the Internet one night I saw fares to Thailand for 80.00 RT.  What a deal I thought.

“We’re going to Thailand for Spring Break” I shout.  No one shares in my excitement…”Oh but they will” I say to myself with a giggle as I click the “buy” button on the Air Asia site. ( imagine here the giggle stops and is replaced by the sound of tires screeching to a halt.)

Philip- “Ah, Apparently you don’t check the news…..maybe you should read up on the political unrest going on there….”. A google second later I see “Chinese and Japanese tourist cancel flights into Thailand” , “Red shirt protesters in Bangkok growing violent”, “Red shirt protest closes malls in Bangkok” ( wow, closing the mall , things are heating up!)

Nikki (cough, cough) “Well were flying into Phuket so…we will be fine, Humph!” (arms crossed firmly over chest).

Time to go. Saturday night at 9:30 we boarded the plane. By midnight we are in Phuket. I love flying into these unknown places  in the middle of the night.  When you’re silently moving through a place unattached, simply an observer… you see things differently you imagine the stories unfolding  the heartbreak, the love affairs, the sadness,  the laughter,  the friendships…..the dim light from the street lamps leave shadows below where lines can get crossed, away from the harsh light of the day people let there layers fall away. It’s then that we can catch a glimpse of human vulnerability. Sometimes it’s more interesting to be a witness than participator.

That night we stayed in a not so great hotel across from a not so great karaoke bar…… We pulled up to The Cafe Karon hotel and were greeted by a big blond Aussie belting out Jefferson Airplane 30 feet from the hotel. Not thinking to much about it we head up two flights to our “room” Which turns out be facing the Karaoke Bar. We can’t escape the vibration of the bass as it crashes into the windows . At this point no one is impressed with my 1st accommodation pick. The complaints start rolling in. The bed was hard, the floor was sticky, the bathroom smelled, the water’s brown…..

The next morning we’re out early heading to the ferry. As I look around I can’t believe how far ahead of Vietnam Thailand’s infrastructure is. They have real highways, and the cars are traveling on them in the same direction! They have stop signs, and the cars and motorbikes are stopping at them! Their red lights are more than a mere suggestion people use them! Wow, we are just a hop skip and a jump from Saigon but it feels very far away. Don’t get me wrong were not in Kansas either. There are shrines and flowers and beautiful dark-skinned people ( that look more Mayan Indian to me than Asian) Many of them in a Khimar (Muslim head scarf) Huge posters of the King hang from bridges and buildings, the writing is exotic and unreadable, arabic-ish. This is definitely a foreign country but with a little bit of home thrown in.

As were speeding along on the super smooth road Silas perks up. He’s wide awake…hmmm this is strange it’s only 8:00am…..usually he only grunts when forced into the world before 11.  He’s speaking full sentences, he’s looking around… he nudges Zeb. They both get excited…you’ll never believe it, could it really be, oh my it is,  it’s a…a Subway! (the sub shop, not the underground transportation system) and then  Arlo shouts;”look look there’s a Shell gas station!” Oh my god I think one of them may faint is that a… a yes, yes it is,it’s a… STARBUCK’s. Holy shit! The kids have died and gone to American consumer heaven…Seriously if we had passed a Target or an Ingles someone would have peed their pants from sheer happiness. Luckily for the cab driver we didn’t.  They now LOVE Thailand no more complaints about the crap room or the even crapper karaoke singer belting out Bon Jovi at 1am. All is forgotten and forgiven. Thailand even has a genuine 7-11!

They begged us to stop but luckily we had no time to waste. The Ferry would be leaving port and we needed to be on it. The boat is great and reminded me of the Bob-lo boat we used to ride up in Detroit.

I fell asleep and two hours later  we were in Koh Phi Phi,pronounced much to the naughty delight of Zeb and Arlo as pee pee and they didn’t miss an opportunity to say it…I want to go pee pee, you love pee pee, your standing on pee pee…you get the idea.

Phi Phi is a tourist Mecca, crowded with locals selling everything from banana pancakes and shark tooth necklaces to diving trips and elephant treks. We were only there an hour before our boat left for Koh Lanta so we didn’t get to see much past the “main drag” But I hear there are quieter parts of the island and the water is spectacular. The movie The Beach was filmed here so if you’ve seen the movie you get an idea of how beautiful it is.

One more boat ride gets us to Koh Lanta. Philip and Zeb decided to sit up top  wanting to ” feel the sea breeze on their skin”…more about that later…When we get off the boat we hop into the back of a pick up and get dropped off at our little beach front bungalow. Hammocks and sun chairs, the sound of waves lapping the shore! Paradise. The beach is dotted with cute little places just a short walk or crawl (Philip) away from food and happy hour!! Koh lanta never sees the crowds that some off the bigger islands like Phi Phi see but since it was the end of the season it was even slower than usual. Perfect for us.

Back to the “feeling the sea breeze on my skin”. That wasn’t the only thing Philip was feeling on his skin. The man is white. The sun is hot and he’s acting out a scene from Andy Samberg’s  “look at me I’m on a boat” video. Andy must have been wearing sunscreen Philip and Zeb were not. Luckily Zeb has darker skin and already a good tan so he wasn’t that red but Philip…OUCH…his neck was redder than the boys from Madison County. All I could do was try not to laugh…give him some belladonna, some cold aloe, and a couple of beers….

The next day I played in the sun and waves with the kiddos while Philip sat in the shade with his beer…he decided being sunburn isn’t so bad after all.  By Monday he’s still red and a little blistery so we plan a day doing an elephant trek and cave trip.

The brochure  said “Enjoy walk through and in shady jungle maybe see monkey enjoying tree then enter cool temperature cave where you look around for impressive sight…” Sounds just right shady jungle and cool dark cave, perfect.

The elephant ride is wonderful..I can’t help but feel a tinge of guilt though and pray that their keepers love them and treat them with kindness. Our guides seemed to, they never yelled or hit them. In fact our guide hopped off to take call on his cell phone leaving Arlo and I to be  our own guides.. Which totally made my day. I whispered lots of loving words into her big flapping ear and was rewarded with a wet somewhat slimy “hosing off” with her trunk. I think she liked me…..

After the elephant ride we piled into a truck with a group of Germans (who had some choice words to share about Bush and some words of hope for Obama.) The shady “walk” through the jungle turned out to be forty-five minute “climb” through a rubber tree plantation. When we reached the cave entrance we turned on our head lamps and proceed to descend into the center of the earth!

This cave trek was not for the faint heart, the heavy-set. or the claustrophobic. Nor for those scared of heights, spiders, rotten bamboo bridges laid precariously across  deep dark canyons or bamboo ladders with missing rungs, or for those wearing flip-flops (90% of us) Or those wearing white (like the sweet girl from France whose pants will never be white again). So basically  it’s not a good idea for anyone or at least those without life insurance which is precisely why the boys LOVED it.  At one point near the end we had to shimmy through a tiny tunnel on our tummies. As we scrambled out in to the light I heard one exclaim “this is not at all what I expected!”  I agree, it was so much better!