Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Great Family Adventure

Last night, the 20th, we stayed in a cheap little $20/rm. hotel by the airport in Bangkok. It was suppose to be a pretty new building with a pool, complimentary massage, shuttle etc. We had to get two rooms as this little hotel didn’t have big rooms. Most of that was true, but we did wonder about the lumpy pillows, water stained doors and their advertising of hot and cold water. It all ended up pretty good as a whole (I haven’t seen a bathroom with sink, toilet, and shower all in the same space in awhile), but of course there are always challenges, snaffoos, and elements of SE Asia that you just don’t have control over. We were going to meet Lois and Carl Grove, and their son Clinton, at a huge 4 story mall complete with 10 lane bowling alley and a roller coaster (Lois says hi to all AH folks!). As soon as we stepped out of the hotel, the transportation booker recognized us as green horns and tried to get us to pay 2 and ½ times as much for what it should cost for where we were going. Lois said taxis were cheap, so we called her to check out this quote-1st off, he wanted to be paid upfront and he was willing to bargain. Interestingly, he stuck to his negotiated price and wouldn’t take us for the real price. We stepped outside the property, we got a cab with a meter that brought us to the mall for the expected price. It sure was fun seeing the Groves. They all seem well and like living in Bangkok. Carl has picked up a large region with his job, so he’s headed in all directions throughout the year. Lois is teaching 1st grade (or K?) in a Christian International School, where Clinton also attends.

Morning was sunny, clear (with the usual haze), and 80ish. We were staying in bit of a seedy area-pretty close to the airport and 45 min. to any sights, so we took a walk to see some 3rd world sights with the kids. Pretty eye opening…dirt, wild dogs, multiple food stalls/restaurants that were in huts with old wooden and/or cement floors. Everything of course is open air-no windows-open crusty grills, fruit sold from vendors on motorcycles, and most food exposed all day. We even ventured into a couple of side streets where little old ladies were the proprietors of 15” x 10” stores attached to their homes. Joey and Hailey were thirsty soon and went into a “restaurant” where the owners were having some rice and chicken breakfast-I don't think they were open. They overcharged us for a couple of Pepsis and a water, but wouldn’t let us leave with the bottles. They put ice in plastic carry bags and poured the drinks in and provided a straw for all-carry out! All was good, until Anne realized that her bottled water was probably put in with ice made from tap water. That gave Joey and Hailey pause, so we started over as soon as possible. We ran across an elaborately decorated temple seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It had the traditional Thai architecture painted in a shiny gold. Pretty impressive sight. We wished we could have stayed until services were happening. We were a bit late as our flight was at 2 p.m., so we headed back to the hotel, checked out, and jumped into the shuttle to get there early. Bags were unloaded, we started for the door, and Anne's eyeballs were on the verge of bursting out of her sockets! "My pack! Holy Mother, did you put it in the van Doug? I laid it down next to you at the hotel! It has EVERYTHING in it--Passports, Visas, $, etc.!!" Well, we only had one sim card that worked. I sprinted to a cab, had Joey call the hotel, find our bag, check with the van, and I'd been there ASAP. We all talked about the snaffoos that we would encounter when travelling....oh boy, here we go...I grabbed the air between the cabby and myself and smothered him with the name and address of our hotel. "Do You KNOW where this is?" His quick reply, that is obligatory apparently was, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure, sure, ok, ok." I was in obvious hurry/panic mode, on my face at least, and yet this guy starts putt putting down the road, looking in 6 directions, and slowing up at each fork in the road. OMG, we had a connection to catch in Jakarta, that would get us to Denpasar (Bali) at 1a.m.ish. I reiterated my need for him to know where he was going with a firmness that the man started to choke on. He asked, "Do you have a phone?" Oh god, great, I'm in charge here...I looked at him at showed him my empty sim card holder. Sooooo, down the highway we puttered, until God decided he needed to take control of this one since my guy was not going to be of much help. I wondered what the Big Guy was going to do to help. Of course, stick a police officer on the side of the road in the middle of pure flat horizons giving someone a ticket! Sweet!!! I directed him to pull over and find out where to go. Easy sneezy, and off we went. I bounced from the cab, ran into the office, and the attendant said that Anne got the bag and something about the van. we head on back to the airport where Anne was waiting with the kids, but no backpack! What the...but Anne quickly let me know that she forgot that she had crammed it into her carry-on bag.....See kids, that's how these things get easily resolved!

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