Our plans for the last day in Thailand were only cemented at 3 am this morning when we booked a taxi to Ayutthaya (pronounced U.T.I. by the locals and heard by us), the former capital of Siam that was sacked by the Burhamese. Our intention was to see elephants for Helen Jeanette who was saying for weeks leading up to the trip, ‘I’m going to Bangkok Thailand to see elephants and monkeys.’
We left the hotel at 6:30 and made the hour drive in enough time to not have to pay admission at the first temple, Wat Lokayasutharam . I don’t think this one could qualify as a ruin since it was largely intact, but it was awesome. All the dozens of Buddah’s surrounding the complex had on orange robes and there was a large reclining Buddah in stone with orange robes as well.
The second temple, Wat Panan Choeng, was less impressive and also wouldn’t qualify as ruins. It seemed new and quite kitschy compared to the others we had seen. This one was a Chinese Buddhist temple and you could tell by the gold lanterns and the fat Buddah. Helen Jeanette had a melt down here because she couldn’t touch anything and ended up having to go in the baby carrier, which has been distressing her lately because she ”is not a baby.”
Helen Jeanette really fell apart at the third place, Wat Mahthat, which were definitely ruins. Even in the ruined state it was clearly an impressive complex in its day. We also saw the famous Buddah’s head with the tree roots grown around it.
Our next stop was elephants but we had to have a stern talk about not whining. I knew I would be so frustrated if we drove all that way and she was too tired to enjoy them. The talk was unnecessary though because she completely perked up when she saw the elephants. For 1000 baht we had 2 elephants take us around for about 10 minutes. I honestly really regret going with Killian because he wouldn’t keep still and it felt really dangerous. The driver would turn nervously any time he squirmed too much so I felt like it was affecting the elephants balance. Killian loved it but he didn’t understand why he couldn’t switch elephants mid ride or climb up the umbrella. Helen Jeanette, who was riding with my Mom, was perfectly still and floating on cloud nine. The ride itself was very bumpy and we went in the road so there were cars zipping by us.
After the ride we paid 50 baht each for 2 baskets of food to feed the elephants. Both kids loved this and were so sweet about it. The only scary thing here was that an elephant escaped and came from behind to eat the food directly from the basket. I grabbed the kids quickly but they probably would have been safe staying where they were since the elephant was only interested in the food. For me feeding the elephants was the highlight over the ride because the kids were so into it and it was so cute to see Helen Jeanette carefully alternate between elephants to be sure the food was dispersed evenly.
We wanted to go straight home but the taxi driver convince us to see one more ruin,Wat Chaiwatthanaram. He told us we hadn’t really been to Ayutthaya without seeing these ruins. The kids played in the sand while we took turns exploring. They were magnificent- a [much] better preserved but very similar version of Wat Mahthat.
We had a good lunch by the water and then headed back to Bangkok.
Mom watched the kids and packed while Chris and I walked a km to a mall that had a special food court which include street food. We had avoided street food the rest of the trip because of health concerns so this was a way to test out some famous Thai dishes. They were delicious! Photography was not allowed but I did sneak one picture of this pineapple drink. This was part of Chris’s only glimpse of the city, when he’s there to work he really works. He probably put in 10-15 hours of overtime, plus the travel time was a full 50 hour work week. I really wish he’d been able to get out more but I know he was happy with his conference.
We started our day at midnight when Helen Jeanette woke up from her ”nap” and spent most of the night attempting to nap, playing, or watching tv with Helen Jeanette. We knew this was a possibility so both kids and I slept in Mom’s room to preserve Chris from the insanity. (He’s the one working here after all.)
Chris joined us for breakfast at 6 and then we hit the road using a taxi we hired through the hotel. The drive to Pattaya took about 1 hour 45 minutes and the kids slept most of the way. Mom and I enjoyed taking in the surroundings on the drive.
Our taxi driver found a speed boat (500 baht per person round trip) to take us to the island. Originally we’d been planning to take the ferry (30 baht per person each way) but we missed the 9am and had no idea how to find it anyway. The huge bonus about this was the speed boat stopped at a platform and everyone had a chance to go parasailing for an additional 500 baht (approximately $14 US)! They were incredible efficient at cycling people through and the ride was probably 1.5 minutes and they were getting 6 people through 2 boats every 5 minutes. We asking to be dipped and they stopped the boat during our flight so that we floated softly to the water and then they gunned it once we’d gotten wet. I got wet up to armpit level but Mom got completely dunked. It was awesome and a total bonus to the day because we weren’t planning on it and only had a slight inkling that it would be an option.
While we waited for the speedboat we played with a baby on the beach, one of very few Thai children we’ve seen.
Ko Larn was beautiful and crowded! Normally I would hate this but for what the kids wanted to do it was fine. What wasn’t fine with the kids were the endless strings of people wanting to take pictures of them. Groups of 6 people would come and each one would want a selfie with one of the kids. They were both sweet about it at first but eventually adopted a ‘I’m here to play’ attitude. Killian loved the water and kept wanting to walk or crawl directly into the ocean, with no regard for whether the waves were completely going over him or not.
I neglected to negotiate for a cold coconut and got laughed at by some old ladies. They wouldn’t even accept the money I’d agreed to pay and took 100 baht instead of 170. This included a 20 baht bottle of water, but still Mom said the coconut in Bangkok had been 40 Baht.
The ride back was choppy but Killian slept anyway. We walked briefly looking for a shower before deciding that it was better to just dress in the streets and then eat at an Irish pub for lunch. The food was actually delicious and the group at the table next to us was talking about an orgy they had been to, so we got to experience Pattaya’s main reputation.
The taxi took us to the Pattaya floating market, one of the main things I was looking forward to. It was a bit of a let down but still a really cool area. We took one little open boat and wove in and out of the market. I was disappointed there weren’t more people selling things from their boats, that must be more common on weekends. The next boat was an amphibious vehicle and took us to a little farm area for a monkey show. Killian adored this but Mom and I found it a little sad. The monkeys were on leashes and didn’t seem all that well trained. I had also hurt my eye and taken out my contacts so was a little too grumpy to be positive at this point (remember we’d been up since midnight).
One highlight of the floating market was we got to put our feet in the ‘fish spa’. For 100 Baht for adults and 50 for children we got to feel little fish eat the dead skin off our feet. Helen Jeanette was reluctant but the store owner talked to her and I’m so glad she did. It tickled and we told Helen Jeanette the fish were giving us kisses.
The kids (and adults) slept on the 2.5 hours ride back to Bangkok and we couldn’t wake the kids up when we got back so they both ended up sleeping 5pm-4am. Mom and I got room service and passed out shortly after arriving at the hotel. It was an exhausting day but I’m really glad we got to experience the beach here in Thailand.
We had great plans for after nap on Tuesday but we were defeated by the nap monster. Helen Jeanette slept from 2:30 pm until midnight and then stayed up until 8am on Wednesday.
So the only thing that happened after the Part 1 post was I got a fantastic massage and facial from the hotel spa after the kids were in bed. 2.5 hours was about the same cost as a 1 hour massage in the states at a non-fancy spot. I think if I were visiting without children I would spring for this multiple times during a visit, if I had gone someplace that wasn’t as fancy it would have been even cheaper, but maybe not as luxurious a setting.
Chris’s coworker Veena joined us for our morning outing. She was a lot of fun and it was interesting hearing her thoughts on Thailand since she is from India.
We took a long boat to the Grand Palace. I’m not sure how we swung this and paid normal ferry prices but I guess it just worked out timing wise. We couldn’t repeat it on the way back.
The crowds here were unbelievable and I think 90% had to be Chinese. It was also sweltering hot so mixing with those crowds was awful. The complex was awe inspiring but would have been a lot more enjoyable if it were less crowded and hot. Helen Jeanette peed all over me in the carrier when I couldn’t make it to the restroom in time. She actually made it to the restroom but not through the line we were waiting in. I could hardly tell though because I was already soaked in sweat.
We had to leave a deposit and borrow skirts so our legs weren’t bare. They let Killian go uncovered though.
We got a quick lunch at the first place we came to with air conditioning and then hopped a TukTuk to the flower market. Eventually Helen Jeanette threw her flowers into the river and took great enjoyment in doing so.
Veena split back to the hotel and we continued onto the Jim Thompson outlet which was super fun. I picked up fabric for living room curtains and Mom got fabric for several dresses and a shirt for herself. We also picked out lots of gifts and a shirt for Chris’s gala tonight.
This morning we ate breakfast at the hotel buffet which was a sight to behold. They had breakfast items from all over the world, including dim sum dumplings that I stuffed myself with. Helen Jeanette was being fussy and didn’t eat too much but Killian scarfed down all kinds of food.
We took the sky train just 1 stop to see the Jim Thompson house. On the walk there we ran into the perfect opportunity to recreate one of the photos of Mom here in Thailand when she was 8. Helen Jeanette loved getting to pose like Oma.
We stopped into a little store on the way and attempted to barter with the woman. She wasn’t interested in classic negotiation and just wanted to keep rattling off discounts, so the longer you remained silent the better you did. We looped back through after the Jim Thompson house and both parties ended up very pleased with the transaction. The woman even sent her husband to carry our bags for us to the SkyTrain which was 4 blocks away.
The Jim Thompson house was beautiful and fascinating. Tours were required which was great because we probably would have opted out and really missed out. Killian was very loud and happy during the tour and Helen Jeanette fell asleep in her baby carrier. We transferred Helen Jeanette to a chair in their cafe after the tour and enjoyed drinks and smoothies. The watermelon juice was nice but the lychee smoothie was worth the trip to Thailand. Even Killian thought so and when we tried to give him watermelon juice after the smoothie he spit it out.
Helen Jeanette ended up having another accident because I couldn’t get her to the bathroom fast enough and I had to buy some expensive but beautiful little shorts at the gift shop.
The highlight of the Jim Thompson house for the kids was the gravel driveway. Those kids love to play with rocks! The highlight of our visit for the Jim Thompson house staff was our kids. They completely doted on them and took them to see the fish.
After the Jim Thompson house we headed to the pool for lunch and swimming. I got to check one of my life goals off my list by sitting in a ‘sunbrella’ and it was everything I had hoped it would be! The kids had a blast swimming and the lunch was excellent. Helen Jeanette even got a little bowl of Rock Road which she devoured.
Day 1 the adults woke up early but the kids slept until 8. Chris bought us breakfast from a cafe downstairs and we said goodbye to him as he went in search of conference goers.
We found the Sky Train and it to the ferry which we rode to the Grand Palace stop.
We were immediately distracted by the Wat Pho complex and never made it to the Grand Palace. Online it made it sound like you always see both in the same morning so we were expecting to go in salute the reclining Buddah and then continue on to the palace. It was huge though and we spent all morning checking out the incredible detail on the buildings and the hundreds of Buddhas everywhere you turned. It was hot hot hot and we took frequent breaks to pump the kids full of water. We are going to try to be even better about this on future excursions because it is HOT! Carrying the kids in the carrier is great but it makes both of us hotter and they are getting heavy. We had to trade off who had a backpack in addition to a child.
We caught a Tuk Tuk in search of a vegetarian restraunt we’d seen in our guide book which ended up being on a weird back alley. The name and address were slightly different then in the guide book but we still suspect it was the same place. The food was good but we felt we were missing out on the Thai experience because everyone there was white. At first we thought floor seating was perfect for the kids but then Killian woke up and showed us just how happy he was to be able to reach everything on the table. I don’t think the super hip ex-pats crowd appreciated our noise and our mess.
On the way back we caught a taxi which took an excrutiatingly long time to get to the hotel and ended up dropping us off about 5 blocks away. We didn’t have our bearings and kept thinking it was just around the corner but at this point we were all hot, tired, and irritable. We did see a lot of fascinating pictures of the King on the drive. There were big framed pictures from about 50 years ago all up and down one of the roads we were on. We also suspect we were supposed to have bargained with the Tuk Tuk because we paid him 220 BHT for a much shorter ride and we paid the taxi driver (who had a meter running) only 160 BHT ($6 and $4.50 respectively).
On our way back my Mom and I decided we weren’t tired so the kids would nap and we’d do other stuff like shopping for Killian’s clothes because I intentionally under packed. He doesn’t have any summer clothes in his current size and I figured we might as well buy that stuff here because it’s suppose to be very cheap. By the time we got to the hotel we’d decided to just nap for an hour and after that hour we turned the alarm off and ended up just barely being able to pull ourselves out of bed after a full 3 hour nap. We had to strip the kids naked and put their swimsuits on before they would wake up!
Chris joined us at the pool but we need to buy him a swimsuit so he just watched us. It was getting to be 6:30 and the sky got dark very quickly, but the water was glorious. The pool is on the 26th floor so you get a great view of the city while you swim.
We then went to the mall in search of Killian clothes and dinner but didn’t end up with much since the prices seemed on par with mall prices in the US which I generally don’t pay anyway! We did end up with some nice crepes to take back to the hotel though.
The kids and Chris passed out after dinner and my Mom and I had drinks at the rooftop bar. I’d always wanted to go to one and this one definitely did not disappoint! There was a girl DJ and another girl playing saxophone along with the DJ and they were jamming out. The drinks were good and we got chocolate cake plus an incredible view of the city.
”Lets just duck in here before we go to the Palace.”
The reclining Buddah’s pillow. It didn’t look comfortable but sure was beautiful!
”Welcome to my home!”
‘Take a picture of me with this one.’
Years ago I told Chris I really wanted to go to Thailand and he said something along the lines of, ‘Thailand?! They have an oppressive government and I will NEVER go there!’ So I was disappointed but the list of places I want to go is long so I just moved on.
Fast forward to about a month ago and Chris found out he would be attending Lenaro Connect Asia in Bangkok. Obviously I wasn’t going to let him leave me behind so we came up with the plan that we’d go with him and bring my Mom to help with the kids. Flights and accommodations were super reasonable so we moved quickly to commit to the trip. We got our wires crossed booking though and Chris ended up on a different flight. No biggie since he’d be in first class anyway and that removes the temptation to swap seats during the flight which would probably have felt like cheating his company.
Chris left Saturday morning amidst lots of angst about clearing customs with his equipment. As I write this on the leg from Bejing to Bangkok I am praying that he was successful. *Update: he was!* We left a little later Saturday morning but got to the airport 3 hours early in case we ran into difficulties taking the kids out of the country (we did going to Vancouver last year). The short 1 hour jump to New York wasn’t quite as painless as we expected and Helen Jeanette had an accident. She told us she needed to go right when we’d started the descent and she couldn’t hold it until we landed. She was wearing undies at that point but we switched to pull ups for the rest of the trip.
We had to check back in at JFK and we ran into a pretty long delay when Air China had no record of the luggage we’d checked, but we still had time for lunch and for Helen Jeanette to have another accident. She warned us again but we were too far from the restrooms and the pull-up leaked onto her pants. At this point I only had one more pair of pants in the carry on so I panicked and bought her an expensive Ralph Lauren outfit (in boys so she can pass it down to Killian). We should be reunited with our checked bags in an hour so it was probably not necessary though.
The 13.5 hour leg to Bejing was brutal. I had wrongly assumed they would have milk on board and that wrecked havoc on Killian’s sleep. It’s the first flight where I know we’ve been very disruptive for any substantial period of time. Helen Jeanette was a champ with just a couple whines and cries. Her worst outbreak lasted about a minute and was because Oma had dared to take away the iPad. Just because Helen Jeanette was asleep did NOT mean she was done using it!
We landed 45 minutes late and had to sprint (carrying the kids and our stuff) though a very confusing customs and security process and then down a very long hallway. Once we got on board we realized they had seated us all separately and the stewardesses had a really hard time understanding why this was a problem. They asked me many times to just take our seats and we’d sort it out in the air. I figured there was a 50:50 chance Helen Jeanette would be cool with it but the other possibility was she has a complete freak out so I stood my ground until they moved her next to me. We never got my mom moved near us but she took each of the kids at certain points.
The 5 hour flight to Bangkok felt long and boring but the kids were well behaved and they both slept a little. The kids, especially Helen Jeanette were a big hit with the couple sitting next to us. I think this is probably a good foreshadowing of our time here, I’ve heard the Thai people love children, especially blondes.
Chris met us outside customs and we shared a van with his boss and made it to the hotel around 1 am. Killian got some milk from room service and fell asleep hard! I think the kids will be in a good position today to handle the jet lag. Mom and I will not be in as good a position but we can handle our exhaustion better then the kids.
Our 5 star hotel is fantastic and lavish and about the same price as a Hampton Inn back home.
Today we finally checked out Notasium in Durham. It’s a music-based indoor play place and they also have karaoke and music lessons. I was really impressed with it and the kids both loved it. There was a bouncy house and a big slide. Helen Jeanette climbed up and slid down the slide twice before deciding it was too scary and then she climbed up several more times and insisted I climb up and slide with her.
Oma Leni met us there and the kids had a blast playing with her. Chris came at the very end and had just enough time to go down the slide with Helen Jeanette once.